Mohegan Sun Arena – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Photos by Pauk Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Mohegan Sun Arena 255 Highland Park Blvd Wilkes-Barre, PA 18703
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins website
Year Opened: 1999
Twenty Years of Hockey in Wilkes-Barre
For a facility that has been in existence for only twenty years, the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza has gone through a number of name changes. Initially named The Northeastern Pennsylvania Civic Arena and Convention Center, the building has also been called The First Union Center at Casey Plaza and The Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza before entering into a 10 year naming rights deal with the nearby Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs racetrack and casino.
The Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins are the primary tenant of the facility. The team has enjoyed quite a bit of success in their time in the American Hockey League, qualifying for the playoffs in 18 of their 20 seasons in the American Hockey League, including every season since 2002. The Penguins have reached the Calder Cup finals three times in their history.
Food & Beverage 4
The Mohegan Sun Arena offers an impressive menu for a mid-sized arena. Fans attending Penguins games can choose from several stands, each offering unique menu items. Stands operated by local favorites Chickie & Pete’s and Revello’s Pizza headline the offerings. Other options include Center Ice Grill, Brewski’s & Brats and Power Play Pizza. In addition, portable carts offer a wide variety of snack foods to round out the culinary experience.
Chickie’s and Pete’s Stand at Mohegan Sun Arena, Photo by Pauk Baker, Stadium Journey
Craft beers from local breweries Lion Brewery, Troegs and Dogfish are sold throughout the facility. Fans seeking non-alcoholic beverages can choose from a variety of Coca-Cola products. The Stix Sports Bar, located behind section 119, features seating that overlooks the arena floor. This sports bar features several high-definition televisions, and sells craft beers and mixed drinks. Puck’s Craft Vodka Bar offers specialty drinks for thirsty Penguin fans.
Mohegan Sun Arena offers several signature items for the adventurous eater. The Roast Beast, sold at the Lion’s Den concession stand, contains 8 ounces of Roast Beef in au jus, cheese sauce with bacon, horseradish sauce and crispy onion straws on a Kaiser roll. It comes with a bucket of house-made kettle cooked chips seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning. Other fans may head to Glazed & Confused, where they can order a “Sticky Pig,” a pulled pork sandwich topped with an onion ring on a donut shell, or a “Beef of Burden,” a sandwich with beef brisket on a donut shell topped with an onion ring.
A detailed description of Mohegan Sun Arena’s concessions can be found here.
The Penguins offer your standard minor league hockey experience, complete with loud music, in-game giveaways, and between period shenanigans. If you are at a Penguins game, you will certainly be entertained by Tux, the Penguins’ mascot. Tux has a wide repertoire of gags and skits to keep fans entertained, and is one of the better mascots in the AHL circuit. Many a visiting fan has left Mohegan Sun smelling like popcorn after getting a bucket of the stuff dumped over their heads by Tux.
Tux, Photo by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Despite Wilkes Barre’s location close to both Philadelphia and New York City, this city seems to have fully embraced the Penguins. The crowd is a sea of black and gold, and the fans in this corner of Pennsylvania know their hockey. The crowd here can get really loud when the building is full, and it gives the Penguins a definite home-ice advantage. Be ready for the obnoxiously loud goal horn whenever the Penguins score.
The area around the Mohegan Sun Arena has been built up significantly since the opening of the facility in 1999. There are several hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers within a short distance of the arena. Unfortunately, the area is not an organic neighborhood that can be accessed by foot, or where you can simply park your car and explore. The neighborhood is a hodge-podge of strip malls and developments that have gone up piecemeal over the years. Thus, while there is a ton of activity around the Mohegan Sun Arena, this is not a cohesive neighborhood that would earn higher marks.
Most of the eateries here are national chains, which may make the area a bit less attractive to foodies. Still, some local favorites can be found among the clutter. Lucky’s Sportshouse is a popular gathering spot for Penguins fans, and Stations Grill is a highly rated sandwich shop and deli. The Wyoming Valley Mall is less than a block away from the arena. Fans looking for a little more action locally will undoubtedly flock to the nearby Mohegan Sun Casino at Pocono Downs.
Attendance for Penguins games has declined steadily over recent seasons. The team enjoyed a sellout streak of 54 games from 2000-2002, which was followed by another sellout streak of 90 games from 2002-2004. From 2000-2007 the Penguins averaged over 8,000 fans every season. Those days seem like a distant memory now. The team is averaging just over 5,000 fans per game in 2018-2019, good for the middle of the pack in the AHL.
The fans who come to Mohegan Sun Arena are enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and the arena can get loud when the Penguins get on a roll. Wilkes-Barre fans have a reputation around the AHL as one of the more unwelcoming groups in the league, but these concerns are overstated. As is the case in most minor league facilities, the Penguins are marketed as family friendly entertainment, and visiting fans are treated well in northeast Pennsylvania (with the possible exception of Hershey Bear fans).
The Mohegan Sun Arena couldn’t be easier to get to. Visible from Interstate 81, the arena is located just feet from exit 168. There is a large parking lot adjacent to the facility that does not charge for parking. Unfortunately, this is where the good news ends. Mohegan Sun Arena does not have an entry lobby, resulting in fans entering directly onto the concourse from outside the building. As a result, fans are required to wait outside while they pass through security. If you are attending a Penguins game on a cold, rainy night, the long lines that form are a most unwelcome nuisance.
Once inside the arena, fans enter into a cramped concourse that is much too small for the crowds that come to Penguins games. Concession stands line the inner wall of the concourse, and many portable carts line the outer wall. Lines from these stands often spill out, making navigating the concourse even more problematic. The concourse is horseshoe shaped, with a small walkway behind the sections 123-126. This walkway is only wide enough for two people, making getting around in this area even more difficult.
The seating bowl does not share the same cramped feeling as the concourse. Seats are divided into two levels, each featuring individual padded blue seats. These seats are wide and comfortable, even for fans of larger stature. All seats feature excellent sight lines. Avoid the seats in the 200 sections on the end, as they consist of uncomfortable folding chairs with poor views of the action.
Unfortunately, once you leave the seating bowl and exit the arena, traffic problems rear their ugly head once again. There are only two ways out of the parking lot, making exiting a slow process. It can take up to a half hour to get out of the lot on certain nights.
Return on Investment 4
Lower level tickets at Mohegan Sun Arena range in price from $25-$36, and upper level tickets range from $18-$28. This puts the Penguins in the same range as other minor league hockey teams in the area. Concession stand prices are also in line with other venues at this level of hockey. Where the Mohegan Sun Arena shines is that they offer free parking in the lot adjacent to the facility. Seeing how it is the only option for parking here, it would be easy to charge a fee and collect some extra money from every fan coming to see a game. The fact that the Penguins don’t charge for parking more than makes up for the slow egress in leaving the lots after a game.
In the far corner of the arena behind section 126 is an open area where the team has set up display cases to display the many bobbleheads that the team has given away over the years. Also set up here is the WBS Penguins Hall of Fame, Kids Club and Booster Club.
Banners hang from the rafters of the Mohegan Sun Arena honoring the many division and conference championships won by the Penguins over their history. Also hanging are large banners featuring pictures of Pens alumni who currently play in Pittsburgh.
A final extra point is awarded for the nice variety of Penguins merchandise available at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Pens logo, which features a muscular Penguin (they don’t drug test logos, but there’s got to be some doubt about steroid use here), is one of the more popular in minor league hockey. In addition, a small kiosk on the concourse offers discontinued items at a discount price.
Thanks to the success of the baby Pens, northeastern Pennsylvania has become Penguins country even though it is located closer to Philadelphia and New York. The arena may not pack in the fans like it used to, and may not stack up when compared to other minor league arenas in nearby Hershey and Allentown, but it remains a solid place to take in a game.
Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.