Allentown is skating closer to having a professional hockey team to call its own.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms officially broke ground on the arena complex at a ceremonial event held yesterday at the intersection of Seventh and Linden streets in the city.
Team owners Rob and Jim Brooks were on hand to kick off what they said is a more than 30-year investment in the future of the city.
With a catch phrase of “the excitement is building,” they celebrated the ceremonial start of construction that is expected to run through the summer of 2014.
“Obviously some of the construction has already started,” noted Mayor Ed Pawlowski. “All of the buildings have been demolished and there is a big hole there.”
Now, however, the serious work of constructing actual buildings will begin.
Pawlowski called it a good day to be mayor of Allentown.
“There were times over the course of this project where it was hard to see through the fog,” he said. But, he added that now that the project is moving forward it has proved to be a catalyst for growth.
Pawlowski noted that Lehigh Valley Health Network, Service Electric and Air Products have all committed to being part of the development at the arena site known as One City Center.
“This marks the rebirth of the city,” he said.
Brooks was quick to note that the complex itself was more than “just about hockey.” He said that the arena will host 144 nights of entertainment per year and will likely be open for events before the September 2014 start of the hockey season.
The Phantoms are the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers. They are expected to begin playing at the arena in the 2014-'15 season.