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Hurricanes Fans Brave Traffic to Storm New Arena

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RALEIGH — Raleigh's new Entertainment and Sports Arena officially opened to a packed house Friday night.

The new building seats 18,000 hockey fans, but many of those headed to the Hurricanes home opener were sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic for the entire first period of the game.

Traffic was backed up as far as the eye could see along Interstate 40.

Some fans opted for the half-mile walk from Wade Avenue to the arena.

One fan said he got to the game 45 minutes late.

"I got home around seven and I thought I was making good time, but then boom, I was not moving. As a matter of fact, I looked at my speedometer and I was never more than 5 miles per hour for an hour," says Mike Wicham while stuck in traffic along Wade Avenue.

Many fans who had little trouble with traffic say they took Trinity Road off of Blue Ridge Road to enter the arena.

Many of those who finally made it inside for the inaugural game left a little lighter in the pocket. Hurricanes fans got a taste of what it is like to buy food in the new arena.

"Almost $11 for two sodas, fries and a hot dog is kind of expensive, but it's expected," says hockey fan Chris Lynch.

Fans may have sticker shock, but arena officials say they tried to keep prices consistent with other venues like Ericsson Stadium, Charlotte Coliseum, Greensboro Coliseum and Walnut Creek.

When it comes to tickets, the least expensive seat costs $17. That is actually in the bottom third of all NHL ticket prices.

"Hockey makes its money at the gate. They don't have as much television revenue as football and baseball and basketball. Hockey fans know this and so they deal with it," says hockey fan Joe Norkus.

Granted, the least expensive tickets gets you a seat high up in the stands, but looks can be deceiving. "I've got the worst seat in the house tonight. Great view. I have no problems with it," says a satisfied fan.

Most who attended Friday night's game took everything in stride and had a great time, although some did leave early to escape any traffic hassles on the way home. Reporter: Lynda LovelandandKen SmithandRichard Adkins

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