Looks like our questions on wheither or not Hersheypark Arena would fade into the history books have been answered. Read this article to find out more:
As much as Friday’s “A Night at the Old Barn” celebrated Hersheypark Arena’s 75-year history, the event served the dual purpose of removing any doubt about its future.
Ted Kleisner, president and CEO of arena owner Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, told the audience of some 500 people that the historic building is getting a new roof, ensuring that it will be around “for another 75 years.”
What was then called Hershey Sports Arena opened on Dec. 19, 1936.
In an interview after Friday’s program, Kleisner said the roof will cost $2.1 million – hardly an insignificant sum but, he said, “we frankly were anticipating that it would be a much bigger expenditure to stabilize it.”
Some preliminary work has begun but the bulk of it will take place after the winter.
“It will get done,” he said.
'So much history here'
Kleisner acknowledged a “collective sigh” of relief among Friday’s audience members.
“Like everyone thinks that it’s going away,” he said. “I don’t know how we would replace this.”
“There’s so much history here, so much life of our community,” he continued. “And when I say it’s the heart of the community, that’s not my words, that’s their feelings, everyone in this whole arena.”
What made Hersheypark Arena unique for its time – a continuous-span concrete roof that gave every seat an unobstructed view – also raised the biggest concerns going forward. Before embarking on a new roof, Hershey Entertainment wanted to make sure that the concrete rebar in the roof still retained its structural integrity.
“And the report was really astonishing,” Kleisner said, “that the rebar is absolutely in pristine condition after all those years. So there’s never been any water that has gotten into the concrete, which is a testimony to the builders and the architect and the process and the craftsmen of that era that it’s able to sustain.
“Very few structures would come back with that report. I was frankly amazed. And that’s when we said, ‘Well, the roof’s not going to fall in. Let’s make sure that same integrity is good for a long time to come.’ ”
The decision to go ahead with the new roof was made “this past year,” Kleisner said, and came down to “a matter of prioritizing capital expenditures.”
He said Hershey Entertainment’s head of construction services “finally came to me and said, ‘We can’t wait another year. This has got to be in this year’s budget.’ ”
Hersheypark Arena’s days as central Pennsylvania’s sports and entertainment hub ended nearly a decade ago with the opening of Giant Center in the same complex. The Hershey Bears hockey team moved to the new arena, as did major touring attractions such as concerts, ice shows and circuses.
Meanwhile, the adjacent Hersheypark – an amusement park – has continued to grow, prompting some speculation that it might eventually swallow Hersheypark Arena.
But Kleisner noted how much Hersheypark Arena continues to be counted on, by everyone from youth hockey players to figure skaters to radio-controlled airplane enthusiasts. It is home to Lebanon Valley College’s club hockey team and serves as the Bears’ backup practice rink when Giant Center is booked for events.
“It’s amazing how much use this building gets,” Kleisner said, “and then throw in 100 (Hershey Entertainment) employees that have their offices here permanently.”
'A place of vibrancy'
Mike Emrick, lead announcer for National Hockey League games on NBC and Versus, spoke at Friday’s event.
Emrick, who lived in Hershey for five years, noted that historic arenas in Boston and Chicago are now parking lots and that the late Spectrum in Philadelphia has been reduced to “rubble.”
By contrast, Hersheypark Arena “is a place of vibrancy,” he said. “It is alive. There is an ice surface here, and that will delight the heart of anyone who has ever walked in here and been taken by this place, myself included.”
There’s also the matter of the Ice Palace, the Hershey community’s original ice rink, which is attached to Hersheypark Arena’s west end. It is vacant but also figures into Hershey Entertainment’s long-term plans.
“It’s a great space to provide air-conditioned banqueting, catering services,” Kleisner said. “We’re not sure what to do with it, but we’ll figure it out.”