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 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".
There are a total of 28 permanent concession stands and 48 carts spanning the three levels, along with the Arena Club Restaurant in the 200-level and Pub 300 on the 300-level. Among the many concessions at PNC Arena are The Sausage Stop behind sections 105, 120, and 304, Market Place behind sections 216 and 314, South Street Cheesesteaks behind sections 123 and 324, and of course, North Carolina BBQ Company behind sections 104, 115, 123, 130, 306, 326. North Carolina is famous for its barbecue, so make it a point to stop by the BBQ Company stand and sample some of the world famous Carolina barbecue (as if anyone could merely sample that tender heavenliness).
The food during a Hurricanes game at PNC Arena is not limited only to the concession stands and carts dotted around the three concourses. In most arenas, full-service restaurants and bars are reserved for the club level and special ticket holders only. At the PNC Arena, there is a restaurant on the club concourse, aptly named Arena Club Restaurant. No special ticket or club membership is required to eat here, but you must call ahead to reserve a table. The Arena Club, much like the Acela Club at the Verizon Center, offers two dining options: traditional menu or buffet. The buffet menu is made up of soups, a salad bar, carving station, sauté station, and entrées with the spotlight shining once again on that oh-so-succulent barbecue. If you're not big on buffets, the Arena Club Restaurant offers an a la carte Steakhouse menu. Note that this restaurant closes when the event starts.
On the 300-level, behind section 312, is a full-fledged bar with a wide selection of brews and food options. Being on the 300-level, it is open to all fans and is a great place to check the scores from across the league during the intermissions.
Other concession stands of note include the Nutty Bavarian, Rituals Coffee Company, and The Carvery. For a full list of the concourse concessions and their locations, click here.
When I say NHL pre-game, your first thoughts are probably of the light shows and teams taking the ice to raucous applause, and of course, the national anthems. Due to the North Carolina weather, however, the party at PNC starts well before the game when fans, who are used to tailgating for NC State football games at Carter-Finley Stadium, bring their grills, tents, flags, and games and set up like they would on any normal Saturday during football season. These are legitimate hockey fans, not just college football fans that are looking for another excuse to pull their grills out in the offseason.
Upon first glance, the atmosphere inside may seem a bit laid back, but don't let the overall friendly aura fool you into thinking a Hurricanes game is just a social event for these fans. Make no mistake; the fans are there for the Hurricanes and everyone gets into the game.
To sum it all up, the Hurricanes have blended the intensity of the NHL with the southern charm of the Old North State to create an incredibly unique and pleasant atmosphere.
PNC Arena shares its parking lots with Carter-Finley Stadium. Aside from this, the only other buildings are residential homes, a couple office buildings, and the North Carolina Museum of Art, which is about half a mile away. Admission to view the permanent collection and to the Museum Park is free and definitely worth checking out after the game. You have tailgating to do before the game, remember? They are open 10-5 Tuesday - Thursday, 10-9 on Fridays, and 10-5 again on Saturdays and Sundays. Aside from this, you will have to drive about 10 minutes to downtown Raleigh or take the Pepsi Caniac Coach, which I will tell you about later on in Access.
Once in Raleigh, barbecue, burgers, and beer abound, as it is not only the state capital but also home to twenty different colleges and technical schools, as well as NC State University. Three of the local favorites are Clyde Cooper's BBQ, Beasley's Chicken & Honey, and the Busy Bee Café. You really can't go wrong with any restaurant downtown. The Borough is another place to note with a relatively small menu with a generous beer selection. Again, just drive to downtown, park (for free on Sundays), and pick a place to eat.
Carolina Hurricane fans are among the friendliest fans in North America. Everyone there seems to know everyone else, and half of them probably just met for the first time upon entering the arena. If you are from out of town and don't know anyone, you soon will. They may be small in number and often outnumbered when teams like the Rangers or Blackhawks come to town, but every single one of them loves the Hurricanes and you will be hard-pressed to find anyone in street attire. You will even see a good number of people still rocking the old Hartford Whalers jerseys from back in the day. There are no bandwagon fans here, which is incredibly refreshing in the world of sports today.
PNC Arena is located just off I-40, though you wouldn't know it standing in the parking lot. To park at one of the many lots surrounding the arena, you will have to pay $15. If you don't feel like shelling out $15 for parking, just park at one of the businesses up the road or park in Raleigh and take one of the two Pepsi Caniac Coaches. These two luxury buses make stops at various restaurants around Raleigh to take fans to and from the game for free. They even have their own VIP entrance around back so you can avoid the traffic as well as lines at the gate. For the list of stops and schedule, click here.
Once inside, you will find that the concourses are well-lit and spacious with plenty of restrooms and water fountains. Both the 100-level and 300-level concourses have black and white marble floors and the 200-level (club level) is carpeted in bright, rich red. The club concourse is not as wide as the other two concourses, and as a result, you get a great aerial view of the 100-level concourse. Steps to the upper decks are large and easy to find and all of the portals are equally well marked. Ushers stand at each portal to help fans find their seats and keep them from entering the seating bowl during live play to prevent fans from blocking other fan's view.
As far as sightlines go, the last several rows in the upper deck provide a limited view of the scoreboard, and aisle seats about halfway up are slightly blocked by railings. These seats are typically cheap, and provide a decent enough view of the action to not detract from the game day experience.
Retail tickets start at around $35 for non-marquee games and $45 for games against teams like Pittsburgh and Boston. However, you can easily find tickets for under $30 for most games on resale marketplaces. The arena is small enough to make you feel right on top of the action, regardless of where you sit. The seating bowls are also steep enough to eliminate the obstruction of tall fans sitting in front of you, but not so steep as to give you vertigo.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, barbecue. If you don't have any at the arena, get some in Raleigh. Chapel Hill and Durham are also close by, with even more food and sightseeing options. If you're spending more than one day down there (which I would recommend), check out the American Tobacco Trail. This is a 22-mile, historic biking/walking trail that runs from Apex, NC to Durham.
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.
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
3908 Arrow Dr
Raleigh, NC 27612
1200 Hurricane Alley Way
Raleigh, NC 27607