Originally known as the Raleigh Entertainment & Sports Arena, PNC Arena was actually originally slated to be the new home for NC State's basketball team. However, since new arenas cost money, and lots of it, the deal did not go through until the Hartford Whalers agreed to come to North Carolina and become the 'Canes; they also kicked in $60M to help fund construction. As a result, PNC Arena is now home to both college basketball as well as NHL hockey, plus occasional concerts, monster truck rallies, circuses, and Harlem Globetrotters games.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
PNC Arena has plenty of food and beverage options, including local fare like barbecue, but the prices are a little on the high side. On the plus side, the portions are also really large, so you do get your money's worth. There are also tables in certain places along the concourse, where you can sit and eat before you head inside.
Food options include burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, corn dogs, smoked sausage, chicken tenders, barbecue sandwiches, barbecue nachos, wraps, paninis, salads, and even veggie and cheese trays. Prices start at $4.50 for the smallest item (basic hot dog) and go all the way up to $11.50 for the paninis. Different types of items are available at different stands; for example, the paninis, wraps, and salads are only available at the Market Place stand, while barbecue is only available at those stands, so you may have to walk around a little to find what you want. However, they do have signs telling you what's where, and a full list of their concession stands is available on their website.
In addition to the above, you can of course find all of the classic "snack" items, such as fries, onion rings, pretzels, peanuts, popcorn, chips, candy, regular nachos, cinnamon-glazed nuts, and ice cream, all for about $5-$6 per item. The ice cream is probably the highlight of the venue - most arenas only have Dippin' Dots, but PNC Arena offers three choices, including Dippin' Dots, scoops from Breyers, and soft-serve from Twisted Waffle, so feel free to bring the kids! Or not, if you want more for yourself.
Drink options at PNC Arena include all of the basics, such as coffee and hot cocoa, Pepsi products in bottles or from the fountain, energy drinks, bottled water, and of course sweet tea, a southern icon. Most of these selections run about $5, except the coffee and hot cocoa which are $3.50.
You can also find a wide variety of alcohol selections, starting at $8. There is even an actual wine stand on the main level, which has over 10 different options.
The 'Canes brought home their first Stanley Cup about a decade ago, but lately their on-ice performance has been lacking, so attendance has suffered. Nevertheless, the staff has been very diligent about adding/changing promotions and activities to try to draw fans.
Like most pro arenas, PNC Arena has plastic, bucket-style chair back seats in all areas, which are fairly comfortable and sturdy. The sightlines are good, even in the upper level, so there is really not a bad seat in the house. There is also plenty of decor, including banners showing past 'Canes (and NC State basketball) accomplishments from prior years.
The staff does a great job with activities during intermissions to keep fans engaged, and also is very supportive of the local community. For example, at a typical game, you may see a local band perform during one of the breaks between periods. You can also witness human bowling, where contestants slide across the ice on saucers to knock over giant pins. In addition, you will sometimes see Stormy, the 'Canes mascot, play in a hockey game against mascots from local sports teams, such as the Durham Bulls or Carolina Mudcats. They also have contests where fans can win the chance to ride the Zamboni while they are prepping the ice between periods. But the absolute best thing about attending a 'Canes game is hearing them sound the hurricane siren before the game, which often includes a local celebrity to crank it, such as Bill Cowher, so try not to be late!
The festivities even overlap into the concourse. For example, they have tables set up with markers and crayons where kids can color and draw; which is a good way to entertain your little ones. The 'Canes also have a table set up with auction items, with proceeds benefiting the Kids 'N Community Foundation, one of the local non-profits the 'Canes support. See a brief video of the items here:
There are very few restaurants in the immediate vicinity of PNC Arena - the arena is bordered on one side by Carter-Finley Stadium (home of NC State football) and by a residential area on the other side, including a high school. Meredith College is nearby, however, as is most of NC State's campus, so there are plenty of options in that area.
The best place to hang out before or after a 'Canes game is Backyard Bistro on Hurricane Alley Way, within walking distance of PNC Arena. This is your traditional American sports bar & grill, and features wings, ribs, barbecue, burgers, and many other items, as well as a wide variety of drink selections. There are also plenty of large TVs so you can keep up with other games.
Raleigh is a decent-sized town of about 450K, and provides a couple of attractions to enjoy if you want to come for a weekend. The most popular destinations are the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the Museum of Art.
A lot of fans wear 'Canes gear, or gear from other local sports teams, such as UNC or Duke, and cheer at the appropriate times, but the attendance is really lacking, especially late in a rough season.
At a typical hockey game, PNC Arena may not even draw 10K fans, and sometimes a lot fewer, which is under half-full for a venue that holds over 18K. On the plus side, the fans can get really loud, especially when the 'Canes score. And even when attendance is really low, you will still see die-hard fans in jerseys wearing foam fingers, amid chants of "Let's Go 'Canes!"
PNC Arena is easy to get to, as it is right next to a major freeway, and the local police do a fantastic job routing traffic, including changing the normal direction of some lanes, and putting up myriad traffic cones, so that there is more room to get in and out.
There is plenty of parking, even if you arrive late, and it is very clear which direction you need to go to find it. However, parking is very pricey at $15 per car, although you can save money if you buy in advance. It is also helpful that the parking spaces are numbered, so it is easy to find your car after the game.
Getting into PNC Arena is fairly easy, with multiple entrances and large signs marking their locations. You will have to go through a metal detector, and it is much easier if you bring your tickets with you, as the will-call office is only on the south side.
Once you get into PNC Arena, it is very easy to get around. The concourse is very wide, and there are plenty of bathrooms to accommodate the crowd size. The staff is very friendly and helpful in directing you to your seat, and there are several escalators and elevators dotted around if you need them.
Whether or not it is worth attending a 'Canes game depends on how much you pay for tickets. If you buy them directly, prices start at around $30, plus service charges and fees, so it could easily cost almost $50 per ticket. However, you can usually get them a lot cheaper through one of the secondary marketplaces, and the 'Canes do offer deals occasionally where you can get family four-packs, for example, that include seats, soda, and popcorn for about $100.
Parking is a little on the high side at $15, and concessions can also be expensive, depending on what you buy. However, the staff does pack in a lot of fun besides the hockey, including the aforementioned human bowling, performances by local bands, and hockey scrums with local mascots between periods, so even in a bad season, it could still be a pretty enjoyable time.
One point for the great support the 'Canes give the local community.
We must mention the helpfulness of the staff, both inside (helping you find your seat) and outside the arena (helping route the traffic).
The "wall of logos" on the third level is a nice feature - if you are a die-hard hockey fan, or a fan from a different team, it is nice to see the 'Canes supporting the whole NHL like that.
Finally, there's the hurricane warning siren - all sports teams seem to have a fun way to introduce the team or start off the game, but the hurricane warning siren has got to be one of the best!
If you are in the area, I would recommend taking time to see PNC Arena. If you plan ahead, you can get good prices on tickets, and maybe even a break on parking, and you will definitely have a great time at a 'Canes game.
On the surface, Raleigh is the unlikeliest hockey town in America.
Sure, the NHL's odd emphasis on American expansion has sent franchises to the southernmost point of sunny Florida and into the arid Arizonan desert, but at least Miami and Phoenix are "hip." The transition from roller blades to roller hockey to ice hockey is only a bit of a stretch.
But planting the puck among barbeques, tractor pulls, and decades of baseball, basketball, and football tradition in the hidebound heart of the muggy South? Now that's a big ol' leap of faith.
Against those odds, the Carolina Hurricanes have carved out a niche in North Carolina as one of the state's most unexpected sporting successes. Bringing a championship home in 2006 helped, but the game day experience at the RBC Center shines for more reasons than the lingering luster of Lord Stanley's Cup.
Welcome to the RBC Center, home of the Carolina Hurricanes, North Carolina State Wolfpack, and 18,680 other screaming fans. Located just 10 minutes north of downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, the arena is well into its 11th season but still feels as new as ever. It's also been home to some incredible accomplishments over the years, including, most famously, the Hurricanes Stanley Cup title in June 2006.
The RBC Center still looks and seems like one of the newest arenas in the NHL. It's already housed hundreds of basketball and hockey games, concerts, rodeos, comedians, and even the NHL draft in the decade since its original opening in October 1999, but still shows no sign of wear and tear.
As they say, "every seat in the arena is the best seat in the arena", and that saying definitely holds true as soon as you enter the building. From the large glass windows lining much of the front, to the red-carpet second level, to the bathrooms that look more like they belong in a fancy New York City hotel, and even to the massive selection of concessions (ranging from Hardees to a built-in restaurant), the RBC Center is about as elegant as you can find for any sporting event, anywhere.
Over the years, Raleigh, normally thought of as a fast growing city known for its three nearby universities, has also become perhaps the largest hockey fanbase anywhere in the southern United States. After the franchise announced its relocation from Hartford, Connecticut in 1996, Raleigh began to prepare for their first professional sports team ever. After the RBC Center (originally named the ESA Arena) was finished in 1999 and the team stopped playing their games in nearby Greensboro, the city residents began warming up to hockey, and they've just gotten more and more dedicated with every passing season.
My visit involved quite an interesting and unusual setting, as although Raleigh is not known for having cold winters, the night before the game had brought seven inches of snow, two more inches of ice sealing in the snow, and had completely "paralyzed the town", as the visiting Hawks announcer quoted on the television broadcast. Despite fewer than 7,000 fans showing up for the game, and nearly a third of them seemingly Blackhawks fans, the game was still a great contest. A Carolina 4-2 victory ended up sending the â??Canes faithful into a frenzy and backing up traffic for the entire parking lot, but it was definitely an enjoyable game to attend and it most certainly wouldn't have been the same without the magic and glamour of the RBC Center.
Of all the regions that the NHL expanded to as a part of the “Southern Strategy” in the 1990’s, perhaps none was an unlikelier fit than the Raleigh-Durham area. On the surface, the NHL’s plan to expand across the South in hopes of attracting a broader national footprint made sense, and cities from Dallas to Nashville eventually came around to the winter game, but Raleigh-Durham was always going to be a tough sell when the Hartford Whalers first announced their move to the area in 1997.
Raleigh-Durham has always been a college basketball hotbed first and foremost, with perennial powerhouses Duke and UNC only a short distance from each other in Durham and Chapel Hill, and the NC State Wolfpack in Raleigh. Adding to hockey’s uphill battle to establish itself was the fact that the area had no NHL-sized arena in 1997, and so for the first two years of their existence, the Hurricanes were forced to play more than an hour’s drive to the west at the Greensboro Coliseum. Attendance started out low and got lower, and it seemed obvious to most observers that the team’s next move was just over the horizon.
And yet the Hurricanes persevered, and a beautiful new arena was built in 1999 off the highway connecting Raleigh and Durham, and these days the team has a loyal and passionate fanbase like most of the rest of the league, and a Stanley Cup banner hanging in the rafters. The Hurricanes have carved out their niche in the heartland of college basketball, and the team today is a vital part of the sporting landscape in the Research Triangle area.
Located on the outskirts of Raleigh and charging $15 for parking are the only real negatives for PNC Arena.Tickets are cheap and the food is varied and tasty. Love the upper deck seats along the side with huge TV screens showing other games during intermission. Lots of banners and some NCAA championship trophies as NC State shares the facility. Would like to see the "Priority" seat areas open to all fans before the game though. Overall, one of my favourite NHL experiences.
My wife and I decided to visit Raleigh to take in a Hurricanes game. The arena looks beautiful on the outside. On the inside, it looked pretty good. Now this was our first NHL game so we have nothing to compare it to. But the fans were scattered around, you could see empty red seats (the Canes record wasn't pretty good) but the play on the ice didn't show that. The food i didn't try because we ate before going. The arena itself was probably at 65 degrees inside and I was burning up. The seats were horrible. The seating, at least where we were and we were behind the goal in the lower bowl section, was obviously not designed for tall people in mind. I had maybe 1" space between my knees and the back of the seat in front of me. I might go back in the future, but maybe sit in another section of the arena.
Barbecue, big city, and college basketball are what most people think of when they hear Raleigh, North Carolina, as well they should. Raleigh is the capital city of the great state of North Carolina, home to NC State University, and we all know about the world famous North Carolina barbecue.
Hidden amidst the Triangle turmoil of UNC, Duke, and NC State are the Carolina Hurricanes. This NHL franchise originated in Hartford in 1971 as part of the WHA, joined the NHL in 1979, moved to Greensboro 1997 then to Raleigh in 1999, won a Stanley Cup in 2006, and hosted the NHL All Star Game in 2011.
The old Hartford Whalers have been resurrected in Raleigh. And why not? With many of the residents in the area transplants from the north, the only thing missing was an NHL team. But 2 problems, don’t go to downtown Raleigh looking for the arena, and most of the transplants are still loyal to their hometown teams.
Food & Beverage
The food at PNC Arena is very good with a lot of different variety. For the best food, check out all the portable carts throughout the concourse which have sausages, prime rib sandwiches, cheesesteaks, and of course Carolina BBQ. The permanent concession stands contain more of the standard fare like hot dogs, burgers, etc.
There are sit-down restaurants at PNC Center, but many are only for club seat and suite holders, or require an advanced reservation. One thing lacking in the concourses are places to either sit or stand and eat. I could find only a few areas, one area actually on the 100 level, where you could sit or stand at a table, and they were only for those purchasing from this one food outlet.
In the 100 level along center ice, those seats have access to a club area with separate full bars and concession stands, but the concessions stands only have VERY limited food selections. I do like the fact that throughout the arena there are several liquor bars, and Labatt Blue and Blue Light are sold!!
On the 300-level there is another full bar with a nice selection of drinks and food, and that bar is open to all fans.
This is the first NHL arena where I have witnessed tailgating in the parking lots. Up north it was always cold and usually snowing so we would just want to get from the car to the arena. Plus with most arenas downtown, you don’t have acres of on-site parking to even attempt to do any tailgating; I don’t believe most cities will allow you to grill in a parking ramp! So, definitely a different atmosphere seeing fans tailgating before a hockey game. But, I believe with the arena location that allows tailgating, you loose on other things, see Neighborhood below.
The atmosphere inside is much like any NHL arena. I felt like I was back up north. Lots of fans from both teams wearing jerseys, getting pumped for their team, and of course Labatt’s Blue; you can’t have an NHL game without it!
During the game the crowd is pumped-up with music and videos between playing. They also have dancers that try to energize the crowd.
I understand what they did, build PNC Arena next to North Carolina State's Carter-Finley Stadium so they can share parking lots, and NC State’s basketball programs can play in PNC Arena. But, as you may know from my other posts, I am not a fan of either. College basketball arenas need to be on or adjacent to campus, and NHL and NBA arenas need to be in the city downtown. I understand this Triangle Region is spread-out and represents many communities. Plus with the team named Carolina, I suppose it is to represent the entire state or maybe even both North and South Carolina, but, I tend to not believe many fans are driving in from Charlotte or Myrtle Beach regularly to see the Canes. Plus, you can still be Carolina, but connected to a city, like the Carolina Panthers are with being in Charlotte. Saying all that, I believe this team lacks an urban identity. The arena should have been built in downtown Raleigh.
There is really nothing near the arena. Acres of parking, a few spread-out office parks, homes, and a few hotels, none within walking distance. So, no restaurants or bars to walk to before or after the game. Downtown Raleigh has many great places to go to, but it is about a 10 minute drive away.
For the most part, Carolina Hurricane fans are very vocal, knowledgeable of the game, and almost all of them are wearing jerseys. Problem is, there are not many there! The 3 games I have attended there were all about 50% full in the stands, and of that 50% attending, anywhere from 25% to 40% are fans for the visiting team. Which is not uncommon in the south as many living there are northern transplants and still have loyalties for their hometown teams. But, how can the team survive with such low attendance? Here is where I believe a downtown arena would help.
So, if you are a fan of the visiting team, you will be with great numbers, unlike most northern arenas.
Even though the arena is not downtown, PNC Arena is centrally located within the Triangle region, located just off I-40, Wade Avenue Expressway, and I-440. Parking is plenty in the acres of lots and only $15. Hotels are in the area, but none in walking distance, while some do have shuttles to the arena.
The Caniac Coach is a free bus service from various stops downtown to and from the arena.
The concourses are wide with plenty of restrooms, concession stands and portable food and beverage carts. Lines at stands more fairly quickly. There are 3 levels, two are general seating and 200-level is club seating and luxury boxes.
The seats are wide and comfortable, at least in 100 level, and sightlines are good.
Return on Investment
Tickets for games are on par with other NHL teams. With sellouts rare, tickets even in the low 100’s are easily available. Food and drink prices are also about average. I like the fact there are liquor bars and available to all seat holders. Again, I believe this arena would be more of an asset to the community if it were located downtown.
Beautiful arena with great seating, plenty of on-site surface parking, variety of food and drink choices, Labatt’s beer, and a great place to see an NHL game, whether you are a fan of the home or visiting team. Just wished it was in downtown Raleigh.
3121 Edwards Mill Road
Raleigh, NC 27612
237 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC 27601
109 E Davie St
Raleigh, NC 27601
214 E Martin St
Raleigh, NC 27601
2110 Blue Ridge Rd
Raleigh, NC 27607
3908 Arrow Dr
Raleigh, NC 27612
1200 Hurricane Alley Way
Raleigh, NC 27607