• Search by team or stadium name:

Buy the latest issue of Stadium Journey Magazine - Subscribe Today!

Stadium Journey Sports Magazine Subscriptions

PPL Center

Allentown, PA

Home of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms

3.6

4.3

PPL Center (map it)
701 Hamilton St
Allentown, PA 18101


Lehigh Valley Phantoms website

PPL Center website

Year Opened: 2014

Capacity: 8,578

There are no tickets available at this time.

Reviews

Local Information

Share
this

Phantom Play in Lehigh

The city of Allentown is probably most famous for being featured in a depressing Billy Joel classic from 1982, but these days, things are looking up for A-Town, the fastest growing city in Pennsylvania.

In 2007, AAA baseball arrived at Coca-Cola Park, one of the minor league's most impressive venues, and now the AHL has joined the party with the Adirondack Phantoms moving into the newly built PPL Center. The peripatetic Phantoms are the Flyers affiliate and have also spent time in Philadelphia, where they won two Calder Cup championships before moving to Glens Falls in 2009. With minor league hockey reorganizing extensively during the 2014 offseason (most notably the CHL joining the ECHL in an effort to make the second-tier league fully representational across the nation), NHL clubs are bringing their affiliates closer and the Phantoms move is one example, as Allentown is only 65 miles from Wells Fargo Center.

PPL Center opened in September 2014 with some local controversy, as it is the most expensive minor league rink ever built, costing $21,000 per seat, more than double the runner-up, MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts. Did the local fans get their money’s worth? Stadium Journey visited just two months into the team's inaugural season and although the venue is aesthetically pleasing and a great addition to the neighborhood, there are still a few issues that need to be worked out to make it a top destination in the league.

3.6

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    5

There is a very good selection of items available at numerous concessions along the single concourse, with prices a bit higher than you might expect for an AHL rink, but not outrageous. Grill Masters offers a Burger Basket for $9, in which you get a tasty burger topped with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese along with a side of chips. For the same price, the Phantom Burger Basket is a better buy, as the toppings include a fried onion ring, bacon, and BBQ sauce. Chicken tenders are $7, while popcorn, nachos, hot dogs, and pretzels all cost $4. Next to this, Mozzarellas offers $5 slices of pizza (cheese, pepperoni, or vegetarian). Further down is Donny Brook's Grill, where a sausage with chips will set you back $9. At the far end is Burger Prime, which offers upscale burgers for $10.

These places are all popular. If you want to avoid lines, consider some of the smaller stands which have just as much variety and are often set apart from the main concourse. For example, Chef Express offers salads and wraps, while Mom's Macaroni has some tempting Mac'n'Cheese options for $9 (you can order a side dish for $3) as well as meatloaf.

If you have a sweet tooth, most stands have large boxes of candy such as Mike and Ike for only $2, pretty much the same price you would pay on the outside.

Beer is available in four forms: bottles are $6, a 16 oz. draft is $8, while 24 oz. domestic is $9 and specialty is $11. Bottled water is $3, bottled soda (Coke products) is $4 as is a small fountain drink, while another buck will get you a souvenir cup. Coffee and hot chocolate is only $2, a bargain to stay warm on the cold winter nights.

I can't imagine fans not finding something to enjoy here. The PPL Center food selection is better than some NHL rinks.

Atmosphere    4

Make your way onto the concourse and walk around with all the orange-clad fans, taking in the new arena smell. This place is beautiful and shiny, with two seating levels and a single concourse that does not go all around due to a club area that takes up one sideline. Before the game, music plays and some game information is displayed on the four-sided scoreboard, but as puck drop nears, you are suddenly awakened from your reverie as the Phantoms employ a pre-game presentation much like you see in the NHL. Most annoying is the obnoxious in-game host, who is not really necessary in a town like this, where fans don't need to be encouraged to have a good time, because they already do.

The host appears on screen in the pregame to yell a bit, and then during the breaks in the action (even the AHL has media timeouts while the ice is scraped), he leads fans through games and promotions. It isn't that bothersome, but I prefer a little quiet to reflect and expect most fans do as well.

During the game, fans pay attention and you can hear the sounds of the game even from the top row of the upper deck, which is how it should be. This would be a pretty enjoyable night out if not for the host, but his presence causes the atmosphere to lose out on all that it could be.

Neighborhood    3

The rink is a critical part of the redevelopment of downtown Allentown and has certainly made the area more interesting, especially on game nights. Located at the corner of 8th Street and Hamilton in the southeast quadrant of downtown, PPL Center has a number of tenants right in the building, including a branch of Philly legend Chickie's and Pete's.

Pizza fans can enjoy Crust and its coal-fired pies, but I recommend heading kitty-corner across 8th and Hamilton to Fegley's Allentown Brew Works, a local microbrewery with 400 seats and a good bar that is hopping both before and after the game.

If you need a cheesesteak, Tony Luke's is right next door as Allentown really is like a mini Philly in more than just its sports teams.

Other options include The Hamilton Kitchen & Bar just across 7th, and the Bay Leaf Restaurant on Hamilton at Fountain.

If you go further afield, move north or west as there is nothing south of Hamilton Street and Jordan Creek marks the eastern border of downtown. Don't head too far away as Allentown has a reputation for being unsafe at night, although I did not venture more than a block from the rink on either side so cannot comment on the accuracy of these assertions.

Overall, Allentown is a work in progress, but having the rink downtown with some good bars nearby is a start. I expect as development continues (the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks of the PIFL are set to move in for the 2015-2016 season), this will become one of the country's unsung minor-league sports destinations.

Fans    4

The fans at PPL Center are very impressive. Many have already bought their jerseys and other paraphernalia and they are into the game from the start. Philadelphia fans have a pretty bad reputation and I'm glad to say that is one element that has not been exported to Allentown. Fans are polite and not drunken idiots, still basking in the glow of a new team. It is a bit surprising that the scoreboard resorts to explaining the penalties (e.g. high-sticking: contacting your opponent with your stick above your shoulder); these fans know the game and don't need much in terms of education, especially for such basic hockey information.

The ushers prevent fans from re-entering the seating bowl while the puck is in play, and most fans don't leave their seats during the action either. The only problem is the aforementioned club section; too many of those prime seats are empty during the game. Aside from that, these people deserve their team and they are showing their support early on, with several sellouts to start the inaugural season.

Access    2

Getting to the arena can be a bit tricky as it lies about three miles north of the nearest major highway (l-78) and two miles south of the Lehigh Valley Thruway (US-22). Construction is still ongoing and there might be traffic jams around the rink, particularly on weeknights. Street parking is available and meters are free after 6 pm, but you will need to get there early to procure a spot. Should you be left wanting, there are several lots for $6, including The Spiral Deck across 8th Street than had nearly filled up its six stories during my most recent visit.

Inside the arena, one issue is the size of the single concourse. Necessarily narrow due to the small downtown footprint, the walkway gets quite crowded during intermissions. To make matters worse, one side of the arena is a club area that is closed to those without a club ticket, so poor patrons are forced to negotiate a smaller area while the club section is wide open. Before the game, several fans were turned back at the club entrance and forced to walk the entire concourse to reach their seats on the other side of the club. I am not impressed when minor league facilities try to emulate their major league counterparts and this is one area that PPL Center gets it wrong. Keep the suites, but the lower bowl should be open to all.

Another problem is with the restrooms - there are not enough of them, at least for the guys. During the intermissions, lineups snake out into the concourse, causing more traffic jams as patrons try to make their way between those waiting to relieve their wallets at the concession stands and relieve themselves otherwise. Advice is to buy food and drink before the game and if you need to use the facilities, try to do so during one of the three media timeouts each period.

If you are parked in the upper level of the spiral deck, you might be want to head to Fegley's or another restaurant to wait out the traffic after the game, although everybody clears out within 30 minutes.

Return on Investment    4

Tickets are typically priced for the AHL, with upper deck seats costing $18.50, lower level seats ranging between $20.50 and $33.50, and those next to the glass $43.50. Standing room tickets are also sold ($19 at the box office) and there are standing areas found throughout the rink, including along the lower concourse.

Head up behind section 212 to the Miller Lite Loft, which includes a bar and a few tables that are not reserved (though they fill up quickly). One spot that I personally enjoyed is the upper deck behind section 210. There are a number of folding chairs here, most of which are unsold (despite the game being a sellout) and you can get a bird's-eye view of the rink while avoiding much of the congestion in the seating bowl.

Although food is overpriced, the overall experience is more than worthwhile; a new team in a new stadium with happy fans makes for a great stadium journey.

Extras    3

As is often the case with new venues, there aren't a lot of extras to be found. Banners celebrating the team's success in its previous locales are located on the wall behind the folding chairs in section 210, while Melvin is the Phanatic-like mascot that roams the rink entertaining kids and adults alike. His name is an anagram of "We in LV", with the W flipped upside down, a nice bit of creativity (and no, LV does not stand for Las Vegas). I'll give a point for the aesthetics; they obviously spent a lot of money on the design and it shows, though some functional improvements are necessary.

Final Thoughts

The overall rating is a bit lower than it should be, again become of some minor flaws in the design that could be corrected as the team gets accustomed to its new home. By no means does this imply that you should not visit. PPL Center is already one of minor league hockey's top destinations and should be on the to-do list of any rink rat.

You must be a Stadium Journey member to post a comment.

Already a member? Sign in or Create a Stadium Journey Account

-- OR --

Crowd Reviews

PPL Center

Total Score: 4.29

  • Food & Beverage: 5
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 4
  • Fans: 4
  • Access: 3
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 5

I was very impressed with the AHL's newest arena. A great crowd showed up for the game the night before Thanksgiving during a snow storm.
The staff are friendly and helpful. Food options were plentiful and the prices were fair for the high quality (compared to normal arena food options).
I liked the layout quite a bit. The concourse was wide but does get crowded. There are lots of smaller spaces that you can weave in and out of to navigate around before, during, and after the game.
The seats are incredibly comfortable and quite wide. There isn't a bad view from any seat as far as I could tell.
I was able to make complete laps around the concourse several times. I did not encounter the ticket/roadblock problem the official reviewer did with the club section. Perhaps fans provided feedback and that original idea was modified to allow everyone to walk through the club areas.
Security was quite tight but the staff was very friendly and happy to answer questions about what they were doing and why (usually the answer was that the arena shared space with other businesses so tickets had to be checked).
There is a well stocked team store and 2 smaller fan booths on the concourse with a bunch of merchandise. The gem for us was a Tim Horton's tucked into 1 corner of the arena. There was even a bouncer and ticket checker there to make sure that it didn't get too crowded in the smallish space. A good idea since the doughnuts and hot coffee were very popular on a cold snowy night.
It is a little tricky getting in and out of the arena since it is in the middle of the city. I think it will be much easier on the 3rd and 4th visits when the route is more familiar. The parking is well marked and not priced too bad ($6). After the game there is a big police presence directing traffic around the blocked streets and out of the parking garages.
Overall a very fun Hockey night and a trip I can't wait to make again this season.

Share your thoughts about PPL Center

Local Food & Drink

Chickie's and Pete's  (map it!)

701 Hamilton St

Allentown, PA 18101

(484) 273-4507

http://www.pplcenter.com/plan-your-visit/arena-restaurants

Crust  (map it!)

739 Hamilton St

Allentown, PA 18101

(610) 224-4625

http://www.yelp.com/biz/crust-allentown

Fegley's Allentown Brew Works  (map it!)

812 Hamilton St

Allentown, PA 18101

(610) 433-7777

http://www.thebrewworks.com/allentown-brewworks/

Tony Luke's  (map it!)

806 W Hamilton St

Allentown, PA 18101

(610) 433-2800

http://www.tonylukes.com/stores/

Hamilton Kitchen & Bar  (map it!)

645 Hamilton St

Allentown, PA 18101

(610) 433-3535

http://thehamiltonkitchen.com/

Bay Leaf Restaurant  (map it!)

935 Hamilton St

Allentown, PA 18101

(610) 433-4211

http://www.allentownbayleaf.com/

Local Entertainment

Lodging

w

© 2017 Stadium Journey