Team: Hershey Bears (American Hockey League)
Game: Bears vs Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins-10/22/2011
Team Website: http://www.hersheybears.com/
Ticket Information: (717) 505-BEAR or http://www.hersheybears.com/
Tourism Information: (877) 727-8573 or http://www.visithersheyharrisburg.org/
Online Broadcasts: http://www.whp580.com/
Local Newspaper: Harrisburg Patriot www.pennlive.com/patriotnews
Team Affiliation: The Bears are the top minor league affiliate of the NHL's Washington Capitals.
Arena Capacity: For hockey, the Giant Center seats 10,500.
How About That Name (And Some History): Opened on October 15, 2002, the Giant Center is now in its tenth season as the home of the Hershey Bears. Built at a cost of $65 million, the arena's naming rights are owned by the Giant supermarket chain, which is based in nearby Carlisle, PA. In early 2012, the Bears will be joined at the Giant Center by the Hershey Haymakers indoor lacrosse team, which will play in the North American Lacrosse League.
On The Town: Located less than fifteen miles from the Pennsylvania state capital in Harrisburg, the city of Hershey has a population of just over twelve thousand, and is a part of the town of Derry Township, which provides all of it's services. It is serviced by three major highways: Interstates 81 and 83, and US Route 322.
Milton was also a visionary for the people who would work for him. After buying his ancestral home, he hired architects to design a town for the people who would work in his chocolate factory. In 1927, the state of Pennsylvania allowed Hershey to incorporate into it's own town. Not only did Milton Hershey just build homes for his people, he also looked out for their interests, building schools, an amusement park, a zoo, and an ice arena.
Nearby Airport: Harrisburg International Airport is approximately ten miles southwest of the Giant Center.
What To Do: No trip to Hershey would be complete without a trip to the world-famous Hershey's Chocolate World. Hershey's Chocolate World features three basic attractions: the Chocolate World Visitors Center, the HersheyPark amusement park, and ZooAmerica.
Just on the other side of the visitors center is the famous HersheyPark amusement park. The park has some of the most well known roller coasters and thrill rides in the area. ZooAmerica, also located just adjacent to the visitors center, has large displays of wild animals from around the world.
For more information, call (800) HERSHEY or visit www.hersheys.com/chocolateworld.
Where To Eat Before The Game: There are several chain restaurants and diners on Hersheypark Drive (PA-39) just before entering the Hershey property.
Where To Stay: While there are several chain hotels in Hershey proper, these can be a bit pricey, especially during peak tourist season. On this trip, I stayed at the Red Roof Inn/Harrisburg-Hershey location, which is located on the east side of Harrisburg, approximately fifteen minutes from the Giant Center. For more information, call (800) THEROOF or visit http://www.redroof.com/.
Parking: There is a large lot which surrounds the Giant Center with more than adequate parking spaces. I was a little surprised when the sign said $12.00 for car parking, but the lady at the ticket booth said that was for "seasonal" parking, and it would only cost $8.00.
Getting In: The main entrance to the Giant Center is located in the front of the building, with the box offices located immediately inside.
Arena Food: As you might expect with a newer arena, the concession selections are numerous and wide ranging. Located throughout the main concourse there are not only the arena standards, but some specialty stands as well. These specialty stands include Famiglia's Pizza, Arooga's Wings, sub sandwiches featuring Hatfield's meats, Dippin' Dots, Uncle Andy's pretzels, and that French Canadian standard, poutine.
Here is a selection of the concession prices at the Giant Center:
Hot Dog: $4.75 Hamburger: $8.00 Nachos: $5.50 Draft Beer: $5.00 Pretzel: $4.00 Large Soda: $5.00 Ice Cream (Dippin Dots): $5.00 French Fries: $4.00 Personal Pizza: $6.00
Soft Drinks: Pepsi-Cola products are served at the Giant Center.
ATM: A PNC Bank ATM is located in the concourse next to the Hershey Sports souvenir store.
Dance Team: None
Program: The Bears' full-color program, called "No Rest" cost $3.00, and came complete with updated game notes for that evening's event.
Scoreboard/Arena Voice: The Giant Center has a sufficiently sized center-hanging scoreboard which gives all the pertinent game information, as well as a good quality video screen. The main scoreboard is assisted by a large, high-quality video screen which is mounted on the far wall of the arena. This board is used strictly for game statistics and out-of-town scores.
Arena Staff: All of the people I encountered were pleasant and smiling.
Atmosphere: Having a long history with the game of hockey, Bears fans are discriminating. They don't need a lot of amping up to get in the right frame of mind. The promotions were low-key in keeping with the traditional hockey night vibe. I'm sure the crowd of eight thousand plus would have been more of a factor if the Bears were playing a higher level of hockey.
Overall Rating: While I felt that some of the prices for my visit to the Giant Center were on the high side, the arena itself and the game presentation were of a good quality. If you keep that in mind, taking in a Hershey Bears game is a great way to spend a Saturday night in Chocolate Town, USA.