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Coca-Cola Park, PPL Center Venues Give Lehigh Valley an Economic Boost

By LVEDC Staff on August 18, 2015

The PPL Center in Allentown hosted the inaugural season for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last year. (Photo credit: Jesse Faatz)

The PPL Center in Allentown hosted the inaugural season for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last year. (Photo credit: Jesse Faatz)

This story was written by LVEDC intern Angelo Fattore.

From the State Theatre in Easton, to the Zoellner Arts Center in Bethlehem, to the Civic Theatre in Allentown, the Lehigh Valley has always boasted terrific venues bringing great entertainment to the region.

Over the last decade, the Lehigh Valley has continued to expand rapidly into an entertainment hub, particularly with the construction of Coca-Cola Park and the PPL Center in Allentown.

“PPL Arena and Coca Cola Park have played a critical role in raising the appeal of the Lehigh Valley,” said Don Cunningham, President and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). “Every community needs quality of life assets that bring people together, create a sense of pride of place, and generate momentum around revitalization and economic and social growth. These two facilities, and the minor league sports teams that play there, are key catalysts in the rebirth of Allentown and the Lehigh Valley.”

In 2008, the Lehigh Valley got what it wanted ever since the Allentown Ambassadors, an independent baseball team, left Bicentennial Park in 2003.

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Triple-A Affiliate to the Philadelphia Phillies, took the residents of the Lehigh Valley by storm. Now in their eighth season, Bacon, U.S.A. is bringing in fans from all over the country to the newly-constructed Coca-Cola Park.

Kurt Landes, President & General Manager of the organization, has been at the helm since the IronPigs’ infancy, and his team has not only been successful, but has also helped lead a revival of the East Allentown area.

Coca-Cola Park

Coca-Cola Park

“Coca-Cola Park is not the only reason for the resurgence of the area,” Landes said, “but it started the curve to ease in more successful entertainment venues to Lehigh Valley.”

A year after the inaugural season, the Shoppes at Airport Center, a full-scale shopping plaza, opened just up the road from the ballpark. And in 2012, ground has broken on a long-planned bridge to connect American Parkway, a main artery into Center City Allentown, over the Lehigh River to ease the traffic in and out of the city.

Michael Stershic, president of Discover Lehigh Valley, the region’s tourism promotion agency, said the Lehigh Valley IronPigs have drawn an estimated yearly crowd of over 600,000 every season since 2008, reaching as high as 645,905 in 2010. In turn, those visitors may frequent other Lehigh Valley restaurants and businesses as a result of their trip.

“The IronPigs have actually seen more visits than what was initially expected,” Stershic said. “I’ve talked to other venues around the state, and their out-of-town ticket purchasers were around 3 percent. Coca-Cola Park’s is closer to 8 percent.”

Also in early 2012, ground was broken on another project that would have a major impact on the region, and bring another sport altogether into the Lehigh Valley.

The PPL Center was christened two years later, with the classic rock band The Eagles performing the venue’s opening concert in September 2014.

It arena introduced hockey to the Lehigh Valley area in the form of the Philadelphia Flyers top minor league affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Phantoms draw an estimated crowd of 310,194 in its inaugural season, Stershic said.

But beyond the thrills of hockey, the PPL Center is setting the cornerstone to the city’s one-of-a-kind tax district, Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ), which has sparked the revitalization of Center City Allentown and the Allentown Waterfront.

The downtown revitalization includes the construction of Renaissance Allentown Hotel, more than 1 million square feet of planned or constructed office space, luxury apartments, the co-working space Velocity, and new restaurants like Chickie’s and Pete’s, Tim Hortons, The Dime, Tony Luke’s Cheesesteaks, Roar Social House, and Crust.

As the dog days of summer have changed from bustling sounds of steel mills to the cheers of the crowd and scent of maple candied bacon on a stick, the economy of the Lehigh Valley is ever evolving to serve needs of those that call the Valley home.

Declining Unemployment Will Alter Dynamic for Workforce and Talent Supply in Lehigh Valley

This column, written by LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham, originally appeared in Lehigh Valley Business on August 17, 2015. (Click here to read Cunningham's previous col[...]

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