Saturday, December 1, 2012

Pennsylvania State Farm Show Equine Arena, Harrisburg PA

Basic Information
Team: Harrisburg Heat (Professional Arena Soccer League)
Game: Heat vs Cincinnati Kings-11/17/12
Team Website:
Ticket Information:
Tourism Information: (717) 231-7788 or
Online Broadcasts: WMSS-FM 91.1
Local Newspaper: Harrisburg Patriot

Team History: After a nine year hiatus, indoor soccer returned to Central Pennsylvania with the return of the Harrisburg Heat. The new club, announced in May, picks up the legacy of the club which played twelve mostly successful years in the NPSL and the second incarnation of the MISL.

Seating Capacity: For indoor soccer, the Equine Arena has a capacity of 2,500.

How About That Name (And Some History): The Equine Arena is one of the newest additions to the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex. The complex features five main buildings, the Large Arena (the home of the original Heat), the Sale Arena, the Main Hall, and the Expo Hall. The complex is used for over 200 events annually.

Getting There: (From the Pennsylvania Turnpike). Exit the turnpike at I-81 north (Exit 226) towards Harrisburg. Take I-81 for 15 miles to the exit for US-22 east (exit 67A). Proceed to the exit for PA-230 east (Cameron St). Exit onto Cameron St, and the complex will be on the right.

Other Tenants: In addition to the Heat and the Farm Show, the Equine Arena is the home of the Harrisburg Stampede indoor football team.

On The Town: With a population of just over 49,000, Pennsylvania's capital city is the ninth largest city in the Commonwealth. Harrisburg is located in the south central part of the state, approximately three and a half hours from Pittsburgh and two and a half hours from Philadelphia.

The area has been known to have been settled for over three thousand years by native Americans who called the area "Paxtang". The first European to explore the area came in 1608, when Englishman John Smith traveled up the Susquehanna River from Virginia. Smith met with the local tribes and established good relations. In 1719, John Harris, an English trader, settled in the area, and 14 years later, secured a land grant of 800 acres. In 1785, Harris' son, John, Jr., laid out a town on his father's land, which he named Harrisburg. In 1791, the town was incorporated, and in 1812, was named the state capital.

With access to the Susquehanna River and good transportation between the major cities on either end of the state, Harrisburg became a major industrial center and trading post. It was this fact that made it a key target in Robert E. Lee's march northward during the Civil War.

Not only was it a trading center, it was also a major departure point for Union soldiers. Lee wanted to originally take the city as part of his Maryland campaign in 1862, but was stopped at the battle of Antietam. A year later, Lee made another thrust northward a year later, this time being turned away at Gettysburg, some forty miles away. Lee's forces never came any farther north during the final two years of the war.

On March 28, 1979, Harrisburg was thrust into the national spotlight when the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island suffered a partial meltdown. The incident at the reactor, which was just south of downtown Harrisburg, caused minimal damage and leakage of radiation, nearly caused a evacuation of the area.

Noted area natives include NFL stars Ricky Watters, LeSean McCoy, and Marques Colston, actress Nancy Culp, best known as Miss Hathaway on the sixties television classic "The Beverly Hillbillies", and Bobby Troup, known as Dr. Joe Early in the seventies television series "Emergency".
Nearby Airport: Harrisburg International Airport is located approximately nine miles southeast of the Farm Show Complex.

What To Do: If you're a Civil War buff like me, the National Civil War Museum is a great way to spend the day if you're in the Harrisburg area. Located just east of the State Capital building in Reservoir Park, the Museum tells the story of the war that nearly tour the country apart in 1861. From Fort Sumter to Appamattox, the National Civil War Museum touches on all facets of the War Between the States. There are large exhibits on Civil War era medicine, the life of the common soldier, the effects of slavery, and the legendary generals and battles during that period. For more information, call (866) BLU-GRAY or visit

Where To Eat Before The Game: There really isn't a lot in the immediate vicinity of the Farm Show, so it might be a better idea to eat near your lodging of choice.

When I would travel to Harrisburg on a regular basis in the early and mid-nineties, one of my standard stops for lunch was Strawberry Square in downtown Harrisburg. Located in the Harrisburg Hilton, Strawberry Square had a good sized food court and a shopping area. I did stop there for lunch on this trip, where I found a fairly good pizza place (can't remember the name, though). Sadly, one of my favorite ice cream places, The Creamery, was out of business. I would always stop there for a truly amazing chocolate ice cream soda whenever I was in town .
Where To Stay: I used to spend a lot of time traveling to Heat games in Harrisburg during the nineties. It seemed like every other weekend, I rolling down the Pennsylvania Turnpike to catch my favorite team in action. On many of those trips, I made the Days Inn in New Cumberland my home base. A nice easy 15 minute drive to the Farm Show and just a strong nine iron from the turnpike and I-83, convenience was the main reason for staying at this Days Inn. I decided to make this a "retro" trip, and did just about everything like I would have when I made those legendary trips years ago, which included staying at the Days Inn. It's an older hotel, but still comfortable. The rooms were well maintained (except that they forgot to leave soap in my room), and for $72.00, it wasn't a bad deal. For more information, call (800) DAYSINN or visit

Ticket Prices: Heat tickets are priced as follows: $20.00 (box seats), $15.00 (center), $12.00 (corners), $10.00 (goals), $8.00 (standing room).

Parking: I do have a major issue here, as parking on the Farm Show grounds costs a ludicrous $8.00. Unfortunately, there really isn't any other choices parking-wise in the area, so you're stuck.

Getting In: There are two entrances to the Equine Arena, one of which is on the Cameron Street side of the arena, and another in the rear of the building. Both entrances have ticket sales areas.

The Good Seats: The majority of the seating in the Equine Arena are on either sideline, which has a total of approximately 1700 blue plastic seats. There are also box seat sections which surround the field and two large metal bleachers behind each goal. The intimate size of the building gives a good view of the action in all sections.
Stadium Food: I hate to say it, but this is one area where the arena needs some work. The Equine Arena has two concession stands, one located under the stands under section A, and another in the seating area near the entrance near the Cameron Street atrium. The seating bowl concession stand had a very limited selection of concession items (hot dogs, pizza, soda, candy). In addition, there was no "menu board", so I couldn't get a read on the prices on the items sold upstairs.

I had two hot dogs and a bottle of Pepsi, which cost a fairly agreeable $9.25. The hot dogs were made by a local outfit, Hatfield's. They were relatively tasty, served relatively warm, but I could tell they were pre-made, since they were served from a steamer on a somewhat mangled bun.

On field level, there was a beer stand, serving local favorite Yuengling, as well as several other brands.

Soft Drinks: Pepsi products are served at the Farm Show Complex.

ATM: I did not see an ATM at the Equine Arena.

Souvenirs: A small souvenir booth is located in the concourse above the seating area. The team had a small line of merchandise available, but I was told more items would be coming.

Restrooms: There are rest rooms located under the seating area near the concession stands and in the concourse in the atrium. Both were of a decent size, well stocked, and in good working order.

Mascot: A large red and yellow beast of an unknown origin named "Boomer" paraded around the stands during the game.

Dance Team: None

Program: At $1.00, the Heat's program, "Game Night" is a good value. The full-color program gives updated information on the Heat and the visitors.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: The Equine Arena has a basic, center-hanging scoreboard which was recently purchased from the former home arena of the San Diego Sockers. The board gives the basic game information in an easy to read format. The acoustics of the arena are fairly good, and the music selection is good as well. The PA announcer needs a little work, as he was hard to understand at times.

Arena Staff: Everyone I encountered was laid back, but fairly helpful.

Atmosphere: The eighteen hundred or so in attendance were happy to have indoor soccer back in town, and after warming up to the new team, became fairly responsive.

Arena Features: A classy touch by the Heat management was naming each of the box seat sections after one of the "icons" of the history of the original team, which included Bob Lilley, Mark Pulisic, Richard Chinapoo, Danny Kelly, Todd Smith, and former team owner Rex Herbert.

Overall Rating: While I'm sure playing permanently at the Equine Arena isn't the "end game" for the Heat management, it's a good place to start. With just 2500 or so seats to fill, it's a good place to start rebuilding the tradition of indoor soccer in Harrisburg.

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