PENGUINS 20TH SEASON: Facilities Still Among Best In AHL
Mohegan Sun Arena has hosted everything from professional wrestling to concerts, monster truck shows and even political rallies since it opened to the public in 1999.
But hockey remains its primary purpose, and those that run the facility haven’t forgotten that as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins prepare for their 20th season.
Even with the construction of newer rinks like the Giant Center in Hershey and the PPL Center in Allentown, the Penguins’ home building remains a great place to watch or play hockey. Couple that with the team’s practice facility, the Toyota SportsPlex, and the Penguins can boast one of the best set of facilities in the entire American Hockey League.
Mohegan Sun Arena is run by the SMG corporation, with Brian Sipe serving as general manager since 2014. Particularly in recent years, the arena has undergone a number of changes in order to make the game-night experience more enjoyable for fans.
A modernized scoreboard was added in 2012, allowing for more creative visual graphics and video elements. Food and drink options have improved, including a Chickie’s and Pete’s stand and the Stix Sports Bar. Tables placed on the concourse that surrounds the seating areas allow fans to watch the game as they enjoy their beverage.
The arena’s parking lot was also fully paved for last season, which not only looks better but is also easier to clean and traverse in bad weather. Acoustic panels were added to the ceiling, improving sound quality mainly for concerts and family shows according to Sipe.
“It’s cliche to say, but we’re constantly evaluating,” Sipe said. “Yearly, we’re changing menu items, working with the Penguins and whatever customer feedback they’re getting. If there’s anything that can change for the better, we will.”
The Penguins players and coaches have also benefitted.
Last year, the Luzerne County Convention Center Authority spearheaded a roughly $1 million project that replaced the ice floor. All the pipes and equipment used to make the ice were also upgraded.
“So even though the actual building is 20 years old, you could say we have a brand new ice floor,” Sipe said. “It’s nice, because technology changes over 20 years, so it’s more efficient. That’s a great thing.”
SMG is also responsible for yearly maintenance of the Zambonis and any work that needs to be done on the glass boards surrounding the rink.
Perhaps no facet of sports has needed to evolve more significantly since 1999 than security, and management has tasked First Alert Security with keeping fans safe. The third-party company has a wealth of experience from other nearby venues, including Pocono Raceway, Beaver Stadium and MetLife Stadium.
Much of the rest is the Penguins’ responsibility, Sipe said, and he commended them for doing a great job of creating a fun atmosphere for fans.
Just as important to the Penguins’ success as a franchise has been the SportsPlex on Coal Street, which serves as the team’s primary practice facility. It boasts many perks that would appeal to any hockey player, including a state-of-the-art training and exercise room.
“It’s helped us attract better free agents,” Penguins President and CEO Jeff Barrett said, “because they know it’s run properly. The locker room space they have back there is second to none in the AHL. They know we invest, not just in players, but the assets that help them get better.”
It has also allowed fans to see their favorite players up close, as team practices are frequently open to the public.
Starting this winter, thanks to a partnership between the team and school, the facility will also be home to the Wilkes University men’s and women’s hockey teams. Painting and construction of additional locker rooms has been ongoing throughout training camp.
The future also looks bright for the arena, which just announced a new partnership with Mohegan Sun Pocono through 2030.
Mohegan Sun Arena hosts the first game of 2018-19 at 7:05 p.m. Saturday, with the Penguins taking on Springfield.
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