WHEELING - The Wheeling Nailers will soon be ushering in a new era, and they're prepared to do it in a big way. Big, as in twin 8x11 video boards on both ends of WesBanco Arena for the upcoming season, according to team officials.
WAHA president Tim Roberts, one half of the of the new ownership team along with the Regional Economic Development Partnership, said Tuesday this is something he wanted to see happen, but added it probably is not going to be the last upgrade to the 35-year-old arena.
''I thought we desperately needed this,'' Roberts said. ''This was able to come to fruition because everyone taking off their hat and working together.
A sign proclaiming “It’s a Great Day for Hockey” in the adorns the player’s entrance to the ice at WesBanco Arena.
''It's a change in the atmosphere. It helps fans really experience being a part of the game, which is what the minor leagues are all about.''
And it all came about by chance as Coach Clark Donatelli was in Wilkes-Barre, the Nailers' AAA affiliate, helping with a mini-camp. It was there he found out Mohegan Sun Arena, the home of the Baby Penguins, was getting a new state-of-the-art scoreboard.
The obvious concern was coming up with the money, but Wheeling Vice President of Business Operations Craig Bommer said that wasn't an issue and it ended up being a joint purchase between the Nailers, the city and WesBanco Arena.
''We started pricing and looking, doing a 1-2-3 year plan when we could get it in,'' Roberts said. ''It came in four-sided and heavy like any 10-year-old TV would be.
''When we got it here we figured it probably wouldn't work at center ice so we decided to break it down into two. We're keeping the other two for spare parts.
''We have a lot more work to do and hope to have it done for opening night (Oct. 26). I know the fans are going to want instant replay, but we have to get the cameras and things in there to do that.''
Atmosphere is a large piece of what The Hockey Club of the Ohio Valley wants to improve. The team is coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, so it stands to reason they've already got the on-ice part of the equation figured out.
''It's not just for us, it's for Elton John and everything else as well,'' Roberts said. ''Where we are mounting them, we can move them for graduation and things like that.
''It brings so much life to the building. When I have been to smaller rinks like in Youngstown or up to the Wild Things, it has enhanced the entertainment.
''If people have a better time, they will come back.''
When they do, they'll notice things like the new Penguins-themed paint scheme heading to the locker room, which Roberts said was solely the work of equipment manager Billy Higgins, as well as the fact the ''club'' will be open for all games, something that had gone away in recent years. There will be four, 42-inch flat-screen televisions in the club and there will be 12, 50-inch TVs, two at each concession stand, installed.
''The goal is to provide other sporting events to those who attend our games,'' Bommer said.
Roberts said improvements were needed.
''It's not that it wasn't (professional), but like everything else we needed to put lipstick on it,'' Roberts said. ''And when the players see it they feel that this is a new day.
''We're working on that club. We're trying to get it to where, like it was back in my day, the guys come in there after the game and hang out with the fans.
''If we can generate the revenue we need, there will be future renovations as well.''
A beer garden is being constructed in the northeast side of the arena, while a party level that will allow fans to watch the games above the ice, will be available in the southwest corner of the building.
''We've got a consultant in to find out what other arenas are doing and what would sell,'' Roberts said of concessions. ''And we're bringing in consultants for game-day operations. How do we operate? How do we get kids involved?''
There are other things being kicked around, such as giving children rides on the zamboni for their birthday, as well as the construction of a wine garden.
WesBanco Arena Executive Director Denny Magruder says this process has been a long time coming.
''The idea of video boards in WesBanco Arena is a dream come true for our fans, staff, and board,'' he said. ''Nailers fans will now have the opportunity to experience the magic provided by video boards and have their fan experience greatly enhanced.
''I am very grateful for the commitment and energy the new Nailers ownership has brought to this project and the upcoming hockey season.''