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Pittsburgh Penguins and LCCCA formalize WBS lease extension, reveal updates coming to Mohegan Sun Arena

Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza will play host to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins through June 30, 2029.

Photo via Robin Deehan (@RobinDeehan)-Eyewitness News WBRE/WYOU

It’s officially official.

It’s really real.

In a 13-minute meeting Wednesday afternoon, the Luzerne County Convention Center Authority conducted a fair bit of business. They announced a new general manager for Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza after their previous GM left for Rupp Arena in Kentucky. They extended their contract with their food management company, SMG, for 10 years, with an option to extend that contract for five more years.

But most importantly, the Authority formally and unanimously approved the lease extension announced on Monday to keep the WBS Penguins as the primary tenant of Mohegan Sun Arena through June 30, 2029.

Oh, I’m sorry, ”partner.” Not tenant... partner. That’s how the arrangement was characterized at a press conference held at the arena shortly after the meeting — a partnership relationship, rather than that of a landlord/tenant.

Several interesting pieces of information came out of the roughly 11-minute press conference following the meeting. Let’s take a look at some of the critical ones.

Team Investment

As part of the lease agreement, the Penguins will be spending nearly a million dollars ($900,000 to be exact) to improve the arena locker rooms, as well as some other areas. WBS Penguins’ CEO Jeff Barrett offered a bit of clarity to the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice beat writer Tyler Piccotti regarding exactly what this entails:

This would appear to be some portion of the capital improvements alluded to back in February, as during a discussion of capital improvements for improved WiFi and almost $1 million of other improvements, Authority board chair Gary Zingaretti referenced “expecting some additional funding available and some additional capital expenditures that are going to be coming up,” without getting into details due to nondisclosure agreements.

Local Investment

While the Penguins will be improving locker rooms and other back-end things, and the Authority will be investing in its own series of arena improvements — namely, a new LED lighting system, a ribbon board, and other improvements. Again, per the Citizens Voice’s Tyler Piccotti:

The lighting system currently in place at the arena has been the same system used since 1999, and it includes a whole bunch of over-sized lights affixed to the roof of the arena that take at least three minutes to get to full strength. For most of the first 20 years of the franchise’s existence, these lights have been dimmed for the pregame ceremonies each night, then turned on and allowed to charge back up to full brightness during the national anthem or anthems.

A quick search for Tampa Bay’s lighting system brings us to this article, describing the Ephesus Lumadapt LED Sports Lighting System, which was installed at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay this past season. The system is described as follows:

At a cost of more than $600,000, this Ephesus Lumadapt system is the industry’s first adaptive fully customizable LED sports lighting and controls system, allowing facility operators to buy what they need today and then remotely update, adapt and expand the system as their needs change and new technologies and features become available.

Lumadapt’s smart-cloud data approach connects the entire system, thus allowing users to remotely monitor system heath and instantly upload new features, functionality and system upgrades. The fully integrated system can expand with a wide range of a-la-carte options such as; RGBA color, beam tuning, color temperature tuning, remote health/status monitoring, and dynamic scene builder with capability to make personalized scenes. As additional functionality is developed or updated, Lumadapt customers can pick and choose the functionality they need to upgrade the system.

Unless other AHL arenas are going to adapt this technology this offseason, Mohegan Sun Arena will become the just 11th AHL barn to have this technology once it is fully implemented.

I spoke to a good friend of mine, Ashley, who regularly goes to Lightning games, and she described the Amalie Arena lighting systems as well-lit but not exceedingly bright, going so far as to say that WBS would be in very good hands with the system installed at its own arena. She was kind enough to share some before and after lighting pictures with me, so I will share them here now:

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh line up for a faceoff, in October 2017 before the current lighting system at Amalie Arena was installed.
Tampa Bay and Columbus line up for a faceoff, November 2017 before the current lighting system at Amalie Arena was installed.
Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh line up for a faceoff, February 2019, under the new lighting system.

Needless to say, after seeing the before and after pictures, I’m stoked to see this system in action in WBS once it is installed.

Also coming to the arena is a ribbon board, encircling the concourse. Ribbon boards are pretty commonplace in the biggest arenas nowadays, where a thin digital screen is attached to the facing of the arena between the top and bottom floors, and that screen is used to advertise things and provide the time and score of the game.

For 20 years, our time and score has been shown on the sides of the arena by fixed displays, as well as at each end by a fixed display on the ring and a larger scoreboard on the far side. Fixed advertising signage has complemented these clocks, with more and more signs added to the ring as time has gone on. Changing all of these out for a ribbon display should be a massive improvement to the game night experience.

All told, per the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader’s Bill O’Boyle, the Authority’s capital investment in the arena as part of this lease extension is estimated to be nearly $2 million over six years.

Between the back-end improvements funded by the parent team and game-night improvements funded by the oversight body, these next 10 years should be extremely exciting. We’ve come a long way from a center-hung scoreboard with no video capability.