As Allentown’s largest construction project approaches its potential completion in seven months, a global sports/entertainment firm will tackle management duties and help with pre-opening details.
The owners of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms hockey team and BDH Development, the master leaseholder of the $274 million PPL Center in Allentown, hired Global Spectrum of Philadelphia as the manager and operator of the multiuse arena. Officials made the announcement in City Center Lehigh Valley headquarters in Allentown on Thursday.
Global Spectrum is a subsidiary of the Philadelphia Flyers parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, and manages 123 stadiums, convention centers and arenas, primarily in North America, said John Page, chief operating officer for Global Spectrum.
"What's unique about this project is it's a downtown project in a community," Page said. "When you look at the city being the third largest city in Pennsylvania without an entertainment center, that's what excites us … the economic resurgence of the downtown."
State Sen. Pat Browne said the Neighborhood Improvement Zone (which offers tax incentives for commercial development) was structured to help Allentown capitalize on the micro-dynamics of rebuilding communities, and with Global Spectrum managing and operating PPL Center, it offers further evidence of Allentown's successful growth. The center will include a Marriott Renaissance hotel and office building with a Lehigh Valley Health Network facility.
Once PPL Center opens in late summer, the venue could offer a range of trade shows, live concerts and youth and high school sports events, in addition to Phantoms pro hockey games and Disney On Ice.
"What we are going to try to do is be all things to all people," Page said. "It's really an economic model. Most of our facilities are in this size range."
Artists such as Bon Jovi, Jay-Z and the Rolling Stones perform in Global Spectrum-managed venues.
PPL Center could attract big-name shows, too, with artists like Lady Gaga, Cher and Beyonce, Page said. It all depends on what the ticket prices would be, he added. About 15 to 20 concerts could be scheduled from September to May, Page said.
"Our events are eclectic; we want to bring first-class, first-rate events," Page said. "It's certainly very competitive but we think it's going to be very successful."
Global Spectrum is targeting a Sept. 15 pre-season hockey game, Page said.
The center will seat more than 10,000 for concerts and more than 8,500 for Phantoms' American Hockey League games.
Once PPL Center opens, Global Spectrum will handle the daily management of the arena, including scheduling, maintenance, marketing and other operations. The company also will hire a general manager and other staff for the arena.
"From our end, we are looking at taking over the arena in August," said Rob Brooks, co-owner of the Phantoms. "Everything is right on pace."
Workers for Alvin H. Butz Inc. of Allentown have been able to get some of the framing work completed downstairs, while heaters at the event level allow work to continue through the frigid temperatures.
Now, workers are installing the floor where the ice rink will be, Brooks said.
Much of the building is enclosed, and workers are getting the foundation installed for the ice floor, said William C. "Rob" Robinson of Hammes Company Sports Development, project manager. Hammes is the development company overseeing the project; Alvin H. Butz is construction manager.
"Once that final slab is in, it has to be perfectly level," Robinson said.
The first part of this process will be done in a few weeks, followed by a waiting period for the final part of placing the ice into the floor.
With the roof on, more workers are inside, which is nice because it's cold, Robinson said.
The front entrance of the arena will be the last piece and will be enclosed with glass, Robinson said.
"The hotel shell is substantially complete, and once we get approvals from Marriott, we will start interior construction," Robinson said.
Interior work is underway for the LVHN sports medicine and fitness facility in the new office building next to the arena.