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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Santander Arena – Reading Royals

Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43

Santander Arena 700 Penn St Reading, PA 19602

Year Opened: 2001

Capacity: 7,083


Royal Treatment in Reading

Minor league hockey came to Reading, Pennsylvania in 2001 after the Columbus Chill relocated to make way for the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. The team was originally an affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings but went through several affiliation changes between 2008 and 2014. That year, they became an affiliate of the nearby Philadelphia Flyers and have remained such ever since.

The Royals play their home games at Santander Arena in downtown Reading. This cozy arena seats approximately 7,000 fans and is part of a complex that also includes Santander Performing Arts Center just down the road.

Food & Beverage 5

Considering the level, Santander Arena has an extremely impressive selection of food. Fans will find classics such as hot dogs, cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, and locally made soft pretzels. Reading has been nicknamed the Pretzel Capital of the World due to numerous pretzel factories located here, so it is no surprise you can get that classic treat here.

There are more unique local options as well, including Chickie’s & Pete’s Crab Fries and a Central Pennsylvania treat known as a Grilled Sticky. The crab fries are French fries topped with crab seasoning and served with warm white cheese sauce on the side for dipping. Note that despite the name, crab fries contain no actual crab. A Grilled Sticky, on the other hand, is more of a sweet treat. It is a cinnamon bun which is cooked conventionally, then cooked again on a grill, and can be optionally topped with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream.

Atmosphere 3

The Royals try to make the atmosphere work with promotions before and during the game, but the experience here is rather typical in terms of atmosphere. A loud horn will go off after goals as smoke shoots from the scoreboard, but beyond that there isn’t much unique here. The good news is that in such a small arena, every seat is close to the action. They’re also all chair backs, which isn’t true everywhere. The seating bowl is less steep than at many arenas, but not so much so that you can’t see over the fans in front of you. This does mean fans in the top rows can be surprisingly far from the ice, but it also means you can sit higher up and still get the experience of watching through the glass. Some people think hockey is at its most pure when watched this way, while others feel it just obstructs their view. Ultimately it will come down to personal preference.

Neighborhood 1

Reading, like many cities in Central Pennsylvania, has fallen on hard times in the past few decades, leading to businesses shutting down and crime increasing. While the area around the arena is perfectly safe, fans should exercise caution when walking around the city. There is a small shopping center right across the street from the arena, but your best bet is to head a few blocks west towards the Riverfront area. There are several bars and restaurants located there. However, the reality is that Reading is a city in bad shape and you may not want to stick around for long after the game.

Fans 4

Although the Royals don’t usually sell out, and often don’t come close, they do have a base of extremely loyal fans. Those who show up cheer loudly and know the team very well. There is a core group of fans who show up to just about every game and can really get into things. Some of them will even wave flags with the Royals logo during the game, something that would be more expected at a soccer stadium than a hockey arena. Unfortunately, the team doesn’t do a good job at attracting people beyond this core group, which really limits their potential.

Access 4

Reading is served by U.S. Routes 422 and 222, which overlap each other through part of the city before splitting off again. Once you get close to the arena, there are several garages and lots you can park in, with prices ranging from $2 to $12 depending on how close to the arena they are. We recommend parking in the South Penn Garage, which is located diagonally across the street from the arena between Cherry and Franklin Streets. Parking here will cost $5. There is also a garage right next door to the arena at the Doubletree Hotel which costs $12 but is free for guests staying there, and a metered lot on the other side of the arena which costs the same. This all seems like a waste of money, though, when you can park about 20 feet further for less than half the cost.

Return on Investment 5

Tickets start at just $11 and even the most expensive seats in the building will cost just $23. Parking is a bit pricey but not too bad if you know where to go. Concessions are affordable as well. To add even more to the value, the Royals frequently offer promotions where select concession items cost just $1. The schedule for these promotions is available on the team’s website, so look there for more info. When combined with the fact that there is not a bad seat in this building, a trip to Santander Arena can be an extremely affordable way for a family to watch a professional hockey game in an intimate environment.

Extras 2

One star for the banners hanging from the rafters honoring legendary Royals of days gone by. A second star for the wide range of concessions here, including several unique to the local area.

Banners Hanging from the Rafters at Santander Arena, Photo by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey

Final Thoughts

When asked to name a professional hockey team in Pennsylvania, almost everyone would name either the Philadelphia Flyers or Pittsburgh Penguins. However, minor league hockey is alive and well in the Keystone State as well, with the Royals and several other in-state teams building up their own fan bases in mid-sized cities. Although Reading may not be the most desirable city to visit in Pennsylvania, and in fact may be towards the bottom of the list, a trip to see the Royals at Santander Arena is reason enough to come to town.

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