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Santander Arena

Reading, PA

Home of the Reading Royals

3.4

3.8

Santander Arena (map it)
700 Penn St
Reading, PA 19602


Reading Royals website

Santander Arena website

Year Opened: 2001

Capacity: 7,083

There are no tickets available at this time.

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The Royal Treatment

Pennsylvania may be known as a state crazy for football, but there is another sport that garners much attention. Along with the very popular Flyers and Penguins, local minor-league teams feature some passionate fans and fun places to play. Whether it's perennial AHL attendance leaders Hershey, all-time AHL sellout streak holders Wilkes-Barre or one of the OHL’s loudest buildings in Erie; the state’s teams offer a great arena experience. That includes the Santander Arena, home of the ECHL’s Reading Royals. Both the arena and team were born in 2001, and you can see by looking at the logo and team colors what the parent club was at the time (LA Kings). Now affiliated with Washington, the city is still looking for its first Kelly Cup. Though attendance is not high, fans are passionate and they create a great atmosphere to watch some hockey.

3.4

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    5

Everywhere you look, there is a food stand. Not only are there plenty of options, the food itself is pretty good. Amongst the many choices circling the concourse, there are a couple of places that stand out. First is Chickie's and Pete's. This Philadelphia staple has found a home in Reading's arena. Be sure to try their famous Crab Fries ($7) to go along with their chicken sandwiches. The region may not be known for barbecue, but the Pig Pit offers exceptional pulled pork ($6.50) and beef brisket ($8).

Of course all the usual stadium foods are available, but it's worth checking out more of the Santander Arena's abundant choices. A Cabana stand offers Latin foods like Cuban sandwiches, quesadillas and tacos (all around $7). Not too far away is Pauline's Soups and More, a local place that offers up several soups, which is a good idea for a hockey game. You can pick from one of several types of coffee at another stand. For snacks, there are kettle korn ($4.00 for a large), pierogies ($4) or Grilled Stickies. To finish things off, try one of ten Italian Ice flavors offered ($5.50 for a large). I almost forgot to mention the huge pretzel braids ($4), which were soft and definitely something to try in an area known for pretzels.

The beverage selection is top notch as well, and there are a couple mini bars to sit and enjoy a drink before the game or during intermission. Yuengling is a staple in the area and a pub offers varieties of that beer. Stoudt's is another local product (brewed in nearby Adamstown) and their own bar serves four kinds on tap. Coke is the soda provider, and several choices can be found throughout the arena.

Atmosphere    3

Inside the Santander Arena, the seating layout is pretty simple for a mid-sized arena. One level of dark blue seats round the rink and are pitched appropriately to provide good sightlines throughout. Entrances from the concourse are in the middle of each section and ushers thankfully hold fans until a break in the play before allowing them to return to their seat. Luxury suites, the press box and a club area are at the top, behind the seating bowl. One unnecessary intrusion is the amount of advertising. I know this is common at this level of hockey, but along with the ice being littered with ads, you could even find product placements on the stairs inside the arena. Additionally, every single PA announcement has a sponsor. Listen for the "Ehlrich Pest Control Pest of the Game" or play the "Penn's Common Dental Group Smiling Player Shuffle".

The arena definitely has an old-school feel to it, despite being built in 2001. The center scoreboard is quite basic and small, looking like something from the 1960s. There is a video board, but it is at the end of the arena, making it awkward for some to turn and watch. What I do appreciate about the building design is that there is very little open space anywhere. The seats are roomy enough, but the 7,160-seat capacity is in a small surface area. Combine that with a low roof, and you have a building that can get loud. This place rocks during games and Reading has an all-time home winning percentage over .600.

Neighborhood    2

Santander Arena is located right in the center of downtown Reading. A couple of eateries are located near the arena (like the Outside In Restaurant and Bar), but they are nothing to write home about. Further down Penn Street, there are some better places to check out, like Jimmy Kramer's Peanut Bar or the Speckled Hen Cottage Pub. On the surface, Reading looks like an average, fine mid-sized city while driving down Penn Street. Taking a walk around, though, the city is quite sketchy in an area with high crime rates and poverty levels. I felt a little uneasy walking and taking pictures of the arena several hours before the game, despite it being the middle of the day. Around game time, it was different as the area felt better and safer, so there is nothing to be concerned with when you head in for a game. I just would drive to any downtown dining establishments instead of taking long walks.

Our recommendation for a hotel is the Homewood Suites by Hilton. Mention "Stadium Journey" when booking a room to receive a discount.

One place to check out before the game is the Reading Pagoda, which is the city's signature attraction. Located on Mount Penn, just five minutes east of downtown, the Pagoda is a landmark building worth checking out. It's only open for four hours on Saturdays and Sundays, but the view of Reading and the surrounding countryside are well worth the drive up the big hill. I'd suggest checking out sunset when more people and photographers are up there.

Fans    4

The fans really make a Royals game worth a trip as the tight arena traps in all of the noise produced. They were all into the game and showed a great deal of knowledge about their team. After a goal and a very loud horn, many of the fans would jump in with a "Hey!" during the playing of "Rock and Roll, Part 2". Along with ringing cowbells, the crowd would occasionally start a "Let's Go Royals" chant. Heading out of the arena after a big win with those decked out in Royals apparel, the fans had the parking garages singing with car horns as they celebrated the victory.

I couldn't award five points, because there just weren't that many fans. Only a couple thousand showed up for a Friday night game and the Royals have slipped to the bottom half of the ECHL attendance standings. Those that were there were extremely supportive, and I can imagine Santander Arena would be deafening if the Royals could pack the building.

Access    4

Reading is located between major highways I-78 and I-76. While there is an interstate connection from the south (I-176), the trip in from the north takes longer to get to with state roads to traverse (either Route 61 or US-222). The West Shore Bypass partially provides access to the city and the Penn Street exit from the US-422 section of the Bypass leads right downtown and to the arena. There are several parking lots and garages right close by, and given the area, I would suggest forking over the money in the garages instead of trying to search for free street parking. Getting out can be a rush, but overall it's not too bad. Six restrooms around the concourse were more than enough for a crowd that filled less than half the building.

Return on Investment    3

Though a Reading Royals game is definitely worth a trip, the prices can be surprisingly high. It starts with a quite high parking charge, as city parking costs either $8 or $10. During the 2012-2013 season, a special ten-year anniversary price of $5 and $7 was being offered. Tickets range from $9 to $26, with most of the seats on the sides running $16.50 or $22.00. The average ticket price hasn't moved much the last several years and is now average for the ECHL. It is nice that the team offers $9 end seats. Unfortunately, TicketMaster is the team's ticket vendor, and that means surcharges of $6 - $10. Check before heading to the game, but given that sellouts are very rare, I suggest buying tickets at the box office. Inside, the free program was nice and the concession prices are average.

Extras    3

Be sure to spend a lot of extra time checking out the concourse. Reading has done a terrific job with displays and memorabilia all around the arena's walkways. It starts at the main entrance, where the small atrium has an unusual feature hanging from the ceiling. A beautiful chandelier provides a look into the site's past, as Santander Arena is located where the old Astor Theater once played host to movies and entertainment. The theater was built in the 1920s and was eventually torn down after falling into disrepair the last few decades. When Santander Arena was built, designers kept artifacts from the Theater, including the chandelier and the entrance wrought-iron gates, which sit on the side. This is a nice touch.

Inside, the walls of the concourse feature an arena timeline, athletic jerseys from local high school teams, a Reading Royals Wall of Honor and a display case from the city's 2007 American Indoor Football Association championship. My favorite display was the collection of hats thrown onto the ice after a Royals player scored a hat trick.

Final Thoughts

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Crowd Reviews

Sovereign Rule

Total Score: 3.57

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 2
  • Fans: 4
  • Access: 3
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 3

The Reading Royals are the ECHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Royals play In the Sovereign Center, a 7,100 seat arena built in 2001. The arena was quite nice and made for an enjoyable experience.

Royal Party

Total Score: 3.71

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 2
  • Fans: 4
  • Access: 3
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 4

This team is owned by the same people who own the Reading Phillies and they are following the same playbook. Going to a game at the Sovereign Center is like going to a huge party, a LOUD party. The kids love it and the prices are great. I'm not a hockey fan but either are most of the people there. Just a bunch of people having a good time and screaming their heads off.

Reading Rocks!

Total Score: 3.86

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 1
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 4

One of the best minor league experiences I've been to. Great selection of food, good sightlines. Neighborhood is kind of sketchy after dark.

Reading Rocks!

Total Score: 3.86

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 1
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 4

One of the best minor league experiences I've been to. Great selection of food, good sightlines. Neighborhood is kind of sketchy after dark.

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Local Food & Drink

Kramer's Peanut Bar  (map it!)

332 Penn St

Reading, PA 19602

(610) 376-8500

http://peanutbar.com/

Speckled Hen Cottage Pub & Alehouse  (map it!)

30 S 4th St

Reading, PA 19602

(610) 685-8511

http://www.speckledhenpub.com/

Local Entertainment

Lodging

Homewood Suites by Hilton Reading  (map it!)

2801 Papermill Road

Reading, PA 19610

(610) 736-3100

http://homewoodsuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/pennsylvania/homewood-suites-by-hilton-reading-RDGPAHW/index.html

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