No. 8: Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Pa.
Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Pa.
TEAMS (FIRST SEASON): AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (1999); International League Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (2013)
VENUES (YEAR OPENED): PNC Field (1989); Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza (1999)
Sports fans in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre once endured a 2012 season that saw the RailRiders play all road games and recently dealt with a lengthy process regarding the future of the Penguins’ home arena. But with a now-thriving ballpark that will host the 2020 International League All-Star Game and a new 10-year lease for the Penguins, things are looking good in the northeastern Pennsylvania region.
The Penguins’ average attendance has been stagnant in recent years, but CEO Jeff Barrett believes upcoming arena renovations will drastically improve fans’ experience. Upgrades in the short term will bring a new ribbon board and LED lighting system and eventually expanded premium seating and a larger team store. Under the old lease, the Penguins sold general seating while arena staff handled premium inventory, but that has changed. “We’re working together,” Barrett said. “We’re selling corporate sponsorships; we’re splitting some of the revenues so it’s all one big pot.”
RailRiders President and CEO Josh Olerud has a different challenge when selling tickets: Mother Nature. “April and May weather in Scranton, Pa., can be erratic,” Olerud said. “It can be snowing Opening Day, or it could be 80 degrees.” The team had six rainouts this year, but its average attendance has remained strong, up 10% over the past five years compared with the previous five, despite a declining population and slow-growing economy. Olerud credits the team’s efforts in expanding its corporate sponsorships with activations at the ballpark and at brands’ business sites. — David Rumsey