The Lehigh Valley has a chance to shine in the national – and international – spotlight tonight when ESPN goes to the ArtsQuest Center in Bethlehem to broadcast live from the FIFA World Cup Soccer viewing party being held there starting at 6 p.m.
The venue is one of only a handful of sites that the sports network will be broadcasting from around the nation, and Bethlehem is the smallest of the cities chosen for the honor, according to ArtsQuest spokesman Mark Demko.
Other venues include Chicago and Kansas City, he said.
Several thousand people have been showing up for the World Cup game viewing parties since they began on Thursday, but since tonight is the big U.S. match against Ghana, it’s expected to be among the highest-attended nights.
Aside from the attention that will be cast on the Lehigh Valley because of the television coverage, the event is bringing people into South Side Bethlehem that may never have visited the ArtsQuest Center before – soccer fans, Demko said.
“They may not have come for any of our music events, but they’re here to support their team,” he said.
He said ArtsQuest organizers hope that those fans not only buy food and beverages at the event, which helps defray the cost of putting on the free festival, but also spend money at the shops and restaurants surrounding the venue.
“Many businesses have helped support us to put this festival on and get the word out about it,” Demko said.
He said Discover Lehigh Valley, the region’s tourism agency, worked hard to promote the venue as a World Cup viewing destination to areas surrounding the Lehigh Valley. They’ve helped to make the festival a success so far.
“We’ve had steady crowds since Thursday,” Demko said.