AP NEWS

Agreement Will Keep Penguins At Arena For 10 More Years

May 7, 2019

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey team will stay at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza until at least 2029, officials confirmed Monday.

The Penguins and the Luzerne County Convention Center Authority have reached an agreement on a 10-year extension of the team’s lease, which had been set to expire June 30, authority board chairman Gary Zingaretti said. The authority oversees the operations of the arena.

Terms of the agreement will be released Wednesday, when the authority board meets and is expected to approve the lease extension, Zingaretti said. A press conference to formally announce the agreement will be held at the arena following Wednesday’s board meeting, he said.

The Penguins — the American Hockey League affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins — have played their home games at the arena since it opened in 1999, off Highland Park Boulevard in Wilkes-Barre Twp.

The team will continue to play home games at the arena for the next 10 years, starting with the 2019-2020 season, according to a news release arena officials issued Monday.

Monday’s announcement ended months of speculation that the Penguins might leave the Wilkes-Barre region next season. Negotiations between the team and the authority had dragged on since last year, with little information revealed by either side because of a nondisclosure agreement.

In May 2018, the authority board approved spending up to $250,000 to upgrade WiFi service at the arena. Board members said at the time that the Penguins needed better Wi-Fi to comply with American Hockey League standards for recording video.

David Morehouse, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Penguins, said he is happy to continue the team’s relationship with the arena.

“The Pittsburgh Penguins are excited to extend our long-term partnership with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the many fans and community partners who have made it such a success,” Morehouse said, in a statement. “As we like to say in Pittsburgh, this is a ‘Great Day for Hockey.’”

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins CEO and President Jeff Barrett was at the AHL’s Board of Governors meeting on Monday in Chicago and, thus, unable to respond to a phone message seeking comment.

The Penguins, along with all 30 other AHL teams, were required to declare their intentions of participating in the upcoming season and where they would play at Monday’s meeting.

Providence (1992) and Hartford (1997) are the only AHL teams that have longer active affiliations with the same NHL club.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s attendance has declined significantly since 2007 — when the team averaged more than 8,000 fans per game — fueling a lot of the rumors that Pittsburgh might opt to move the franchise. However, it has leveled off at an average of about 5,500 over the last three seasons.

“The loyalty of our fans is second to none,” Barrett said in an interview last fall. “The reality is we are one of the smaller markets in the league. You look at San Diego and Ontario (California) and some of these larger markets, we do very well and we’re very happy with that. I think that the people who come are as dedicated as any fans in the league.”

TYLER PICCOTTI, staff writer, contributed to this report.

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emark@citizensvoice.com

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