The countdown is on to the drop of the first puck in the Lehigh Valley's new hockey arena in 2014.
The arena, which will become the home turf of a minor league team called the Phantoms, is projected to open in August 2014, with Phantoms training camp beginning in September, according to Robert Brooks, who is co-owner of the Phantoms with his brother Jim. Work is underway at the site at Seventh and Linden streets, Allentown.
“The arena will truly be a multi-use facility,” Robert Brooks said in an e-mail. “The arena will not only be the home of the Phantoms Hockey Team but it is planned to hold more than 140 events each year (hockey, concerts, family shows – like Disney on Ice, Harlem Globetrotters, trade shows, high school events, college events, graduations and much more.)”
The official groundbreaking was in November, much to the relief of City officials who had spent part of 2012 in a dispute with neighboring municipalities over taxes to fund the project. Mayor Ed Pawlowski and other officials say the arena complex is key to the revitalization of Downtown Allentown.
In March 2012, more than a dozen municipalities and a school district sued to stop the diversion of suburban tax collections to help fund the arena, according to The Morning Call. The project is being paid for largely through Allentown’s 127-acre Neighborhood Improvement Zone where earned income tax from suburban residents who work in the NIZ could have been used to help pay for the arena.
The project was mired in the legal action until late June when a state law removed the suburban money from the arena funding. After that municipalities dropped the suit.
Allentown closed on its $224 million bond sale in October, the Morning Call reported. That money is earmarked for construction of the arena but also to build parking garages, an office building and hotel at Seventh and Hamilton streets. Brooks said the entire construction project is expected to cost between $235 million and $275 million.
By the November groundbreaking, WFMZ reported that 1,700 season tickets had already been sold for the Phantoms.