Category Archives: Kram’s Korner – From the Club Level

Phantoms Hard at Work

Earlier today, I made a list of things for the Phantoms to work on.  Oh, I know they were already at work on them, and that news would be forthcoming sooner rather than later.  After all, the season’s almost upon us!

Lo and behold, in the last few hours, I’ve learned that:

  • The Phantoms do, actually, have my correct email!  :)
  • Season-ticket holders pre-sale opportunity for single-game tickets: Thursday 10/2 to Saturday 10/4.
  • Single-game tickets on sale to the general public on Monday 10/6.
  • Phantoms Fan Shop on 8th/Hamilton will always be closed on game days, I imagine so that merchandise and staff are available in the arena during the game(s).

How YOU doin’?

@Kram209

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To-Do List, for the @LVPhantoms

There’s lots to do at the PPL Center, some of which I’ve touched on in previous posts.  They’ve got to work on the traffic bottle-neck at 7th and Linden.  They’ve got to get the concessions running smoothly, and get the menus to match the offerings.  Beverages need to be easier to locate and procure. If there’s anything to do about lines for both concessions and rest rooms, they need to look at that too.  Hopefully, Chickie’s and Pete’s will be open soon. There are other things too:  The Hotel is supposed to open in, November?  There are adjacent areas to the arena which are still under construction and features which haven’t been fully realized.  Some furniture still needs to be installed.  And, the ads need to be painted on the boards (we know they’re coming…).

But, this is more about the Phantoms in particular.  Remember that the Phantoms are merely a tenant (the major one, but..) of the PPL Center Arena.  The things above are arena-related.  The Phantoms have some work to do, as well.  They’ve got to host two games in the next 5 days, then they’ll have almost two weeks to get ready for the official home opener on Friday, October 17.  I took the liberty of making out a list of thing’s they’ll be doing, in no particular order:

  1. Mail or Deliver Season Tickets:  As a season ticket holder, I received my tickets for the two exhibition games in the mail last week.  However, tickets for the remaining 38 regular season games–or ticket cards or whatever–should be forthcoming.
  2. Launch the Official Web Site:  Phantomsarena.com has served its purpose.  Look for the official AHL site soon.  Here are a couple, so you can see what it might look like.  Hershey Bears     Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
  3. Put Single Game Tickets On Sale:   Once the web site is up, that will facilitate the sale of single-game tickets.  Despite the fact that I’m a season ticket holder, there might be times when I’d like to bring friends or a small group–waiting on single-game availability to make those purchases.
  4. Get Working on That Team Shop:  I’ve heard it will be January, but they’ll have a larger, or centralized facility within the arena to take the place of the three kiosks and the shop on 8th/Hamilton.
  5. Announce a Promotions Schedule:  Oh, I know they’ve sold a ton of season ticket plans and packages. But, they’ll need to make sure they get the fannies in the seats–and sell out the arena to boot.  HERE is what Hershey’s looks like.  They were at or among the top-drawing teams in the AHL least season.
  6. Sell Those Groups:   I’m sure they are, already. I’ve spoken with that department and the folks I worked with were knowledgeable and professional.  However, until single-game stuff is out, and the promotion schedule–some folks might not be ready to make a group-commitment.  Groups are a key element in attendance and sales for minor league sports.
  7. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate:    The new web site will go a long way.  However, I still think the Phantoms themselves need to over-sell the parking and the links to allentowneventparking.com along with, perhaps, their own map and recommendations for hockey fans.  They also need to help educate on gate openings, PPL Center policies (ie “no re-entry” and “no nice cameras”), and season ticket issues (I still haven’t received an email from them since April 4.)

It’s the first season, and there’s a lot to do.  Despite the two preseason games, they’ve still 17 days from this writing to get stuff done.  As a fan, I’m champing at the bit for cool, new stuff!  I’m sure they’ll get it all done in the fullness of time.  Until then, I’ll keep hitting “refresh” and hoping to continue to learn more about the team and organization–as well as the arena.

Go Phantoms!

See you there,

@Kram209

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Flyers Win! Phantoms Win! (And, other winners and losers from the first Hockey Night in Allentown, Saturday at the PPL Center)

It was a great night for a hockey exhibition on Saturday at the PPL Center in Allentown.  The sell-out crowd–said to be 8,600 but also reported at 7,600 in some places (some group areas weren’t sold…)–was clad in orange and had a good old time.  The arena looked great set up for hockey, and the ice did very nicely.  I was happy to be able to see the puck through all the advertisements!  As I suspected, things were a bit different from the concerts–the crowds, the concourse set-up and more.  Perhaps they’re still fine tuning, and that’s to be expected.  The orange team beat the white team, but hockey won the day.  Here are some other winners–and losers–from Saturday night:

WINNERS:

  1. The color orange:  I mentioned it long ago:  there are a ton of Flyers fans in the area.  It showed.  The crowd was orange-clad all the way!
  2. Apparel sales:  Despite the flood of orange, folks lined up at the three arena merchandise kiosks to purchase new Phantoms gear.
  3. Concessions:  Folks lined up as well for food and drink.  It will calm down a bit as we all get used to what they have and what we like.  We’ll have some detailed menus and reviews posted in this space, upcoming, as well.  As I mentioned, there were some differences in bar setups and beer availability compared with the concerts.  I’m not sure why–could be just natural progression, or could have something to do with LCB event licenses or whatnot.  We’ll see if they continue to fine tune it.  Anyway, the game was at 5PM and everyone was hungry.  Long lines for food and drink.
  4. Restaurants:  We cut out in the third period to go get a bite to eat.  We stopped in the 8th Street block to say hello to Bert at the Philly Pretzel shop.  He reported good business at that location.  We crossed the street to get a burger at the BrewWorks.  They were busy, but we did get a seat right away.  By the time we left, the line was 20-deep to get in.  Other restaurants in the block had lines out front as well.  It looked to be good business for all the eateries.  Hopefully, they are able to fine tune their staff in order to provide efficient service to pre- and post-event hockey and concert fans!
  5. My Bladder:  Perhaps it was the slightly smaller crowd for hockey compared with concerts, or perhaps the nature of the event simply provided for better “flow” (sorry), but the lines for the rest rooms seemed to be much improved.  It’s still not optimal to have one door for both entry and egress, but perhaps that design wasn’t feasible with all of the other arena amenities which require real estate.  Nevertheless, I was happy to see that it wasn’t quite so bad using the facilities.
  6. The parking savvy:  Those who’ve read my advice regarding traffic and parking did very will in and out of the city on Saturday.  Those that didn’t….well, suffered the consequences.  See below.
  7. The ice:  They kept it comfortably cool in the seating bowl, and the ice seemed to hold up quite well from where I was sitting.  Perfect temperature in there for wearing a hockey sweater…
  8. The A/V guy:  Those video boards were gorgeous; it was the first time I’d seen them in full effect.  The PA sound was good as well–if a bit loud when they went to the remote guy.  But they’re still getting it fine tuned.  It’s really impressive.  Hockey play is up on the board constantly during game action.  It was nice for double checking (agian, sorry) the action when the puck was in the far/near corner or just out of view.  Replays were plentiful and well-photographed.
  9. The Miller Lite Loft:  It’s a cool hang out, up above the end seats opposite the concert end.  Nice bar up there, too.  Just don’t tell anyone because I don’t want it to get too crowded up there!
  10. The Seats:  I sat in a number of places during the game:  section 106, section 205 and up at the Miller Lite Loft.  All were good seats–can’t complain at all for hockey, that’s for sure.
  11. meLVin:  He skates, which is nice.  And he seemed to be well-received in the stands and not distracting to the hockey action on the ice.  I’m a fan, so far.

LOSERS:

  1. The Agoraphobic:  The concourses are wider than normal, it’s true.  But, with everyone still experiencing the arena for the first time, making your way around the concourse was troublesome.  If you’re not a fan of crowds, you wouldn’t like it at all.
  2. People who were hungry:  Again with the lines.  It should calm down, and the concessioners should be able to improve their efficiency with time and practice.  But some of the lines for food where just crazy-like–even while the puck was in play!
  3. People who were thirsty:  There seemed to be fewer places and fewer choices in the beer department.  Perhaps things are still getting sorted out, or perhaps it has to do with differences on hockey vs. concert nights.  We’ll see.  I’ll report more as I learn–and certainly there are still plenty of choices there.  Stay tuned.  Oh, and again, the lines, and some beer taps weren’t working and some stands didn’t really have what was listed on their menus.  They need to tighten it up.
  4.  Those who like competition:  It was difficult to know who to cheer for, you know?  I’m glad no one was seriously injured in the game, and it was good to see some skilled play on the ice.  I look forward to some real hockey on Wednesday, though–and then hockey that counts on 10/17.
  5. Penguins and Chocolate Bars:  I’m just saying, with all that orange, not gonna be a terribly friendly place for the opposition to play.  Particularly if you’re from Harrisburg or Wilkes-Barre or Binghamton.
  6.  Fit and Finish:  It seems like there are a lot of spots that need to be tuned up around the arena.  Things left slightly unfinished or not yet optimized.  Nothing glaring or horrible.  Just this:  it’s only going to get better!
  7. Chickie’s and Pete’s:  A loser because they’re not open yet!  It looks to be close, though–a lot of money on the table there as I’m sure that they’ll be doing a massive business as soon as they’re open.  BTW, I was impressed with their menu.  Look here. Hopefully, they’ll have the whole menu available at the arena site.  They’ve got gluten-free stuff, too!
  8. People who don’t read my parking advice:  I guess I’m going to have to keep saying it:  AVOID 7TH AND LINDEN!  The authority knows it’s a problem, and they’re working on it.  However, the confluence of traffic, pedestrians, cross-traffic, and construction has yielded a troublesome and frustrating bottle-neck for motorists.  If you’re coming from the North/Rt22, try to use one of the alternate streets toward the zone:  9th or 5th or even 15th, perhaps.  If you’re coming in on Linden from the East, try to park as soon as you can via the State Lot, Linden garage, or Transportation Center.  If you’re headed in from the South or West, don’t try to circle around.  And for goodness sake, don’t try to park in the arena garage unless you have a pass for that facility–you won’t be able to get in and you’ll just clog traffic more.  Once they clean up that construction, and once they open that new Parkway Bridge (not to mention 8th street out…), things will calm down a bit in that area.
  9. Photographers:  The arena has rules about professional lenses and such.  Luckily, there’s nothing professional about me or my camera equipment–but it’s not the usual high-quality photos you’re used to seeing on these pages.  I did see some really good photos from an amateur at the arena.  I’m not sure what he used, but there may be some ways around it.  We’ll see what we can do.

OK, here are some images and things from my arena adventures:

Parking Routes in Red.  Modification (c) Kram209

Parking Routes in Red. Modification (c) Kram209

The approach walking North on 7th Street.  Photo: @kram209

The approach walking North on 7th Street. Photo: @kram209

Warm Ups from 205, with screen.  Photo: @Kram209

Warm Ups from 205, with screen. Photo: @Kram209

Warm Ups from 106.  Photo @Kram209

Warm Ups from 106. Photo @Kram209

Again from 106.  Photo: @Kram209

Again from 106. Photo: @Kram209

Game Play from section 205.  Photo: @Kram209

Game Play from section 205. Photo: @Kram209

Face Off, from the Miller Lite Loft.  photo: @Kram209

Face Off, from the Miller Lite Loft. photo: @Kram209

See you at the arena,

 

@Kram209

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Hockey Night in Allentown: You’ve GOTS TO BE HERE !

Look, I just wanted to be the first one in the Lehigh Valley to use that headline.  Nevertheless, it might not be much of a battle, and there might not be a ton of actual Flyers stars on the ice, but it’s still the first public hockey at the PPL Center.  And, it’s sold out.  Some 8600, they tell me.  I recommend you get in line for the restrooms right now.  Also, I call dibs on the use of “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fyten” when it becomes appropriate.

battle

News and Notes:

  • As we noted before, more players have been added from Flyers camp: wingers Taylor Leier and Darroll Powe were added, while winger Andrew Gordon and defensemen Oliver Lauridsen and Brandon Manning will join once they clear waivers.
  • From Flyers camp,  in Allentown for the scrimmage:  Brayden Schenn, Michael Raffl, Zac Rinaldo, Jay Rosehill, Blair Jones, Zack Stortini, Scott Laughton, Chris VandeVelde, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Jason Akeson, and Shayne Gostisbehere.  Anthony Stolarz will mind the net for one team, while Connor Knapp and Martin Ouellette will split duties for the other.
  • It will be Orange vs White.  Media reports say they will play three periods, but the last could be a simulation of an overtime period, with the new rules.
  • Word out of the arena this morning is that the cell service is still really poor in there.  If you need to stay in touch for emergency reasons or whatnot, make your way toward upper levels or near the exits.  Keep in mind the arena does not allow for re-entry (without an additional ticket).
  • The game will be broadcast live on SECTV-2 on the TV side.  The radio broadcast will begin with a pre-game at 4:20PM on AM-1470.  Inside the arena only, due to the poor reception, the game can be heard on FM-89.9.
  • Puck drops at 5:00PM.  If your ticket says 5:30, it’s wrong.
  • Late update:  Orange Team:  12 Raffl, 37 Rosehill, 42 Akeson, 46 Powe, 49 Laughton, 52 Cousins, 58 Leier, 61 Hextall, 64 Alderson, 66 Johnston, 76 VendeVelde, 77 Fyten, 15 Del Zotto, 22 Luke Schenn, 48 Delisle, 50 Morin, 53 Gostisbehere, 60 Lamarche, 67 Knapp (G), 70 Ouellette (G)
  • White Team: 10 Brayden Schenn, 34 Gordon, 36 Rinaldo, 41 Jones, 51 Straka, 57 Mathers, 63 Goumas, 68 Hatch, 79 Marshall, 80 Wiles, 81 Noebels, 38 Lauridsen, 39 Alt, 43 Manning, 54 Hagg, 59 Pettersson, 82 Flemming, 65 Stolarz (G)
  • PARKING:  Remember to leave a little extra time, and avoid 7th Street and Linden Street.  Use www.AllentownEventParking.com for real-time updates on lot and deck availability.  DO NOT attempt to park in the arena garage; it’s likely full already.  Parking should be $6 in most Authority lots; $3 at the Government Deck.
  • TRAFFIC:  If coming from the North/Rt22, try to avoid using 7th street–perhaps use another odd-number street to go north.  If coming from the East/Linden Street, park before you get to the arena.
Map Courtesy Allentown Parking Authority

Map Courtesy Allentown Parking Authority

 

See you there,

@Kram209

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Phantoms Roster Taking Shape; News and Notes

The very first Lehigh Valley Phantoms were born yesterday as the Flyers assigned 19 players from NHL camp.

Centers

Nick Cousins

Kevin Goumas

Andrew Johnston

Wings

Brandon Alderson

Austin Fyten

Matt Hatch

Brett Hextall

Derek Mathers

Marcel Noebels

Petr Straka

Defensemen

Mark Alt

Steven Delisle

Brett Flemming

Robert Hagg

Maxim Lamarche

Jesper Pettersson

Goaltenders

Connor Knapp

Anthony Stolarz

 

Others could be assigned soon.  The next group may include defensemen Oliver Lauridsen and Shayne Gostisbehere, and forwards Darroll Powe, Andrew Gordon, Blair Jones, and Zack Stortini.

It’s important to note, the AHL has no hard roster limit.  A team can carry as many players as it likes–and no injured reserve, either.  Injured players just continue to appear on the roster but are never active.  For each game, 18 skaters will be active, plus two goaltenders.  The rest on the roster are either the injured players, or “healthy scratches.”  There are rules about players’ experience.  Based on professional game experience, there must be 13 “developmental” players–12 at the lower level–active for each game.  This makes the 5-6 more experienced players key to a team’s success on the ice.  We’ll learn more about this as we go along.

We’ll also have player capsules and uniform numbers up as soon as things are a little more solidified.  I’ve seen different numbers for players, perhaps “Flyers numbers” and “Phantoms numbers.”

News and Notes:

  •  The arena is batting .500 on concerts now.  With Rascal Flatts cancelling tomorrow’s show, and Cher rescheduling, that’s two that didn’t happen.  Folks received refunds for Rascal Flatts.  A reason for the cancellation wasn’t given.  I hope it wasn’t for lack of ticket sales or for some other arena-related problem.  Personally, I wasn’t planning on attending.
  • The “Battle on Hamilton” Saturday evening won’t be much of a “battle” at all, really.  It’s a “mixed-squad” scrimmage with both Phantoms and Flyers players in attendance.  It’s not clear which Flyers players will be here, nor which team they’ll be on.  If we get that info prior to the game, we’ll try to get it up.  I don’t expect to see much hard hitting, or fighting, though, during a mixed-squad scrimmage.
  • Puck drops at 5:00PM Saturday.  Some of the early tickets printed at 5:30–in error.  It’s not clear when the doors open–I’d expect 3:30 or 4:00PM.  It’ll be interesting to see how crowded the restaurants are following the game….
  • I admit I’m not fully in tune with the entire NHL roster of the Flyers; however, I am expecting many to most healthy players to make the trip to Allentown for the scrimmage.  Reportedly, the new “barn” is creating quite a buzz among the players.
  • One of the buzz-worthy reasons, is Tim Horton’s.  “Why a coffee shop in an arena?” I’ve heard multiple times from folks discussing the arena amenities.  First, it’s not at all uncommon for hockey arenas to have coffee stands and soup available; it’s a winter sport, and a nice warm beverage or soup can be appreciated.  However, Tim Horton’s is more popular in Canada than McDonalds!  Players from Canada, as well as those who may have played there during their junior years, are big fans of “Timmie’s” as they call it.  I keep hearing about the quality of the coffee–gonna hafta give it a try!
  • No word on an opening date for Chickie’s and Pete’s.  However, Crust, the third arena-block restaurant is in it’s “soft opening” stage.  The full menu isn’t available yet, but I hear the doors are open.  Crust is located on the 8th Street side of the arena block, and I don’t believe it’s accessible from the arena itself–gotta go outside.  There’s lots of seating, there, with an upstairs room, I understand.
  • Radio coverage of the Phantoms will be on Fox Sports AM-1470 in the Lehigh Valley.  The radio voice of the Phantoms is Bob Rotruck.  Follow him on Twitter at @BobRotruck .  TV coverage will be on Service Electric, with Steve Degler on play-by-play.  Color commentary for the TV call has not been announced, and could be handled by a variety of ex-player-types during the season.

We’ll have more as we go….

See you at the arena,

@Kram209

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EXCLUSIVE! @SteelHawksPIFL GM/Executive VP Mike Clark Interview

primary_steelhawks_logo

2015 will be the fifth season of SteelHawks football in the Lehigh Valley.  Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with SteelHawks General Manager and Executive Vice President Mike Clark, to discuss the SteelHawks 2015 season and the move to the new PPL Center in Allentown.

Kram:  Congratulations on your move to the brand new PPL Center.  It seemed to be the worst-kept secret in the Lehigh Valley.  Was the move a foregone conclusion?  Were there any issues with the move that you didn’t anticipate?

Mike Clark:  Yeah, worst-kept is an understatement.  But, no, everything with the negotiations went as expected.  I guess the only thing was the delays with the arena deal itself and the construction which didn’t allow us to complete our deal in time for LAST season.  We’ve been welcomed by the Arena and the Phantoms organization–we’re thrilled, and this is going to take us to a new level.

Kram:  Parking is a big concern for the fans overall–be it concerts or hockey or now SteelHawks Professional Indoor Football.  What are your thoughts on the matter, and what was your personal experience when you were downtown the other night?

MC:  I went to Tom Petty the other night, as you said, and I was shocked.  It was a sold-out concert of 10,000 people, and I got out, and home to Bethlehem in 15 minutes.  The traffic flow was great.  And, while we’d love to have 10,000 for SteelHawks, it will certainly be less.  And the other advantage for the Phantoms and SteelHawks games is that the parking will be $6.00 rather than the $10.00 for concerts.  The other great part for the SteelHawks is, a lot of those kinks will be worked out before our season starts in the Spring. But my first experience, at only their second event there, was great.  I was also impressed with their security down there.

Kram: Over the past five years, a tailgating culture has grown surrounding the SteelHawks games.  Do you think there might be an opportunity to get permission from the City of Allentown to designate one lot as a “tailgating lot?”  

MC:  Unfortunately, I don’t think so.  What the city is trying to do, is bring folks downtown to patronize the restaurants and bars in that area–and with three restaurants built right into the arena, it’s probably not going to work.  One of the draws of downtown, now, is the food and beverage.  What we’re trying to do, from an interactive standpoint, is use the area on that corner for, say, moon-bounces and so on to create a kind of party-atmosphere outside the gates on game days.  We’ll try to create a pre-game celebration that way.  Inside, perhaps Chickie’s and Pete’s will have some kind of tailgate-party scenario.

Kram:  There are a variety of “premium” seating and luxury group areas in the new arena.  Will any of those be available on a game-by-game basis for SteelHawks football?

MC:  Yes, groups will be able to purchase or sponsor any of the available luxury areas, including the “bunker” ice-level suites for corporate outings or such, or in conjunction with sponsorships.

Kram:  What color will the field be? –PLEASE tell me green….

MC:  Umm…no comment…  I cannot divulge that at this time.  Well, I CAN tell you it won’t be red and blue, like Trenton.  But it will be our field, with our sponsors, and it will be brand new turf.    That should alleviate some of the problems we’ve had in the past with the used turf.

Kram:  The arena has a wide variety of concession areas.  Will they all be open and available to SteelHawks fans on game days?

MC:  Yup.  Everything will be open, and available for our fans.

Kram:  I see the upper level–200 level–isn’t shown on your seating chart.  Will it be open?  

MC:  At the moment, no, we’re only going to be selling tickets in the lower bowl.  We have the ability to open it, if need be, if the ticket sales demand it.  That would be a good problem to have.

Kram:  The AHL hockey schedule is out, and the PIFL schedule is expected soon.  Do you think there’s an opportunity for a “downtown doubleheader” where both the SteelHawks and Phantoms play on the same day?  (I think that would be a great sports day downtown–come down and park once, go out to eat between games, and stay all day.)

MC:   Rob Brooks from the Phantoms alluded to that during our press conference.  There’s a very distinct possibility; it could definitely happen.  For this season, with the way our schedule is looking, it might depend somewhat on the Phantom’s playoff schedule–as well as other events the arena might have in the works during that time.  Right now, we’re looking at opening up in early April, second week.  And I don’t think we’d want to do that for our very first opener at PPL Center, but thinking past that, it will probably depend on the Phantom’s playoff schedule–if they make it, and we hope they do.  The changeover from football to hockey–or vice versa–can happen in under three hours, if it needs to happen.

Kram:   Will SteelHawks’ gear be available in the Phantom’s shop?  Or just on SteelHawks game days?

MC:  We’ll have a kiosk set up during the SteelHawks games.  But, if fans need gear–or even personalized, we can always do that through our Bethlehem office.  We’ll also have a presence there during hockey games sometimes, distributing season ticket information and the like.  It’s a very nice relationship with the Phantoms.

Kram:  The next few questions are about the 2015 team:  This is the time of year when each franchise is quite optimistic about their chances to be competitive.  I see you’ve signed a few players already–and other than the new arena–is there anything that has you more optimistic than usual for the upcoming season?  For, perhaps another trip to the playoffs or another trip to the Championship game?

MC:  Veteran leadership.  Players like Larry Ford and Brandon Renford who are going to be around for, now, their third season with the team.  It’s always good to have that presence around–both on the field, as well as in the community.  It’s still early in the recruiting process, and we’ve had players calling us, as opposed to having to go out and call them.  I think we’ve developed a reputation–as far as the way players are treated here–around the league–if they hear good things about a place it makes the recruiting process easier.

Kram:  Has the arena helped with recruiting?

MC:  Huge.  It’s been huge in the recruiting process. We just had Jeff Morgan, starting LB for Trenton last year–we signed him the other day–took him on a tour, and he was just in awe.  He hurt us big-time last year when he played against us.  I think last year when they played us here he had an interception return for a TD and a fumble return for a TD.  To get a player like that, it’s huge to have the arena as kind of a “closer.”  I mean, I think this is going to be the best arena in indoor football, AFL included.  The amenities and newness–the facilities as far as the locker rooms–it’s going to blow this sport out of the water.  We like to say, “We’re going from the shack to the mansion.”

Kram:  You mentioned Trenton.  I know there’s a rivalry with our neighbors to the Southeast, what with coaches and players moving between the teams.  Would you characterize the rivalry as a friendly one?  Or, more heated?

MC:  Heated.  I would say.  It’s heated.  But, I love their ownership group, and from a business perspective the growing rivalry–it’s good for our sport.  And, only an hour away, there’s going to be a lot of players switching teams.  We swapped kickers.  We got their star LB and their first-team DE.  They got our star DB–two of them.  One was our team MVP.  There’s gonna be that battle for players, and it’s gonna be a very, very heated rivalry on the football side of it.

Kram:  Watching the team last season, I felt like defense was a key to the team’s success.  Do you agree?  And do you expect that to be a strength of the 2015 squad?

MC:  I’m a defensive guy.  I think defenses win you championships–especially in this sport, because it’s so predicated on offense.  When you get those three to four stops per game on defense, you should win.  Our defense was huge last season–especially in those first four games, allowing us to jump out 4-0, is what got us into the playoffs.  In addition to DL Larry Ford and LB Jeffery Morgan (from Trenton) we’ve signed DL Gerald Bryant who had 10.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss.

Defense, in my opinion, is something you’ve got to get early, and keep building on it.  Without a pass rush in this game, well, and strong D-backs–you’re not going to win many games.  We’ve got to get those 3-4 stops.  I love defense.  When we get those star defensive recruits to sign, It’s exciting.

Kram:  A couple questions about the league–the PIFL:  I’ve heard rumors about expansion.  Is there anything to that?

MC:  We’re definitely going to have our eight teams, and whether we can get to ten this year–we should know more in the next week, week-and-a-half.  In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if we have as many as six new teams for the 2016 season.  But we’ll have to see.  For now, I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance we go to 10 teams for 2015–some teams might like to start early in the process for 2016 in order to start building their brand.

Kram:  Given the possibilities of expansion, do you foresee a time when the schedule might expand from six home games?

MC:  I don’t think so.  I think the owners really like the 12-game schedule.  Once you expand to 14–that would only be one more game at home–that’s a whole extra month of the season, and overhead, for that one home game.  It’s more taxing on the teams, players, and front offices, that extra month.  But we’ll never go down–I think 12 is where we’re going to be.  A lot of our teams share buildings with hockey, too, so that’s part of it.

Kram:  Last season many of us who are fans were, uh, disappointed with the quality of the officiating.  Is that something that’s being addressed league-wide?

MC:  Yeah, I think a lot of the owners, and our league, were not too impressed with the officiating last season.  At our league meetings in early November, probably expansion is topic 1, but officiating and where we see growing and improving the officiating will be topic 1-A.  I’m sure every team feels like more bad calls went against them, rather than for them.  It’s definitely a huge topic of concern, at the ownership level, for when we go to league meetings.

I’d like to thank Mike for his time.  It was great talking SteelHawks football with him.  Lunch at Black Forest Deli isn’t too bad, either!

Season ticket packages are on sale now, for the 2015 season at the PPL Center.  You can fill out an inquiry form here.  Or, you can call the SteelHawks at 610-282-3100 to choose your seats.  Season ticket packages start at just $48.00!

steelhawks seating prices

See you at the arena!

@Kram209 (baseball)

Kram106 (hockey)

Kram116 (football)

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Filed under Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Steel Hawks

PPL Center: Arena Review, Eagles Concert–and a Tom Petty Preview

“How ‘ya doin’?”

Well I’m doing just fine.  And, I’m really liking the new downtown arena in Allentown.  We had a great time at the Eagles concert Friday night, and we were back on Saturday afternoon to get a look around without the crowds.

My first impression of the PPL Center is that it’s really “finished.”  Except, it’s not.  There’s still work to be done in advance of the first hockey game (a preseason tilt October 1) and Phantoms opening night Friday, October 17, 2014.  But by “finished” I mean to say that the place is really gorgeous.  In many an arena, exposed cinder blocks and rough-hewn concrete adorn the walls and floors respectively.  Then, look up and it’s all exposed HVAC and girders.  Not so in Allentown.  The floors are neatly polished in the main concourse, and carpeted in the luxury areas.  The walls are nicely painted and even wainscoting-adorn in some places.  The pipes and wires are neatly tucked into the ceiling and painted black.  It’s just, really, nice.

The traffic was minimal, and the parking no problem–at least for me.  I was a bit early, though.  I did hear of difficulty at the intersection of Linden and 7th Street.  The Parking Authority is aware of it, though, and will be addressing it through several methods.  In the meantime, avoid that intersection if you can.

Even without the restaurants (Chickie’s, Horton’s, Crust) in the arena, there are still many concession choices within.  I’ll detail them as we get going with the hockey season.  They aren’t cheap, though.

I’ll try to get my photos uploaded soon, but for now…

Here are some other random observations, good and bad:

  • Floor Chairs are Small:   I’m not a big dude, but the nicely cushioned chairs on the arena floor for concerts are really tiny.  And, close together.  In fact, they seem to snap or slide together tongue-in-groove style.  Perhaps this is standard for concerts these days, but I wasn’t planning on sitting that close to the big guy next to me.
  • Need More Urinals:   It was the longest line for a men’s room I’d ever seen.  I spent the entire 20-minute intermission plus the first two songs of the second set standing in line.  My advice: take out some of the commodes and install more urinals.
  • It Does Get Crowded:   It was the first opening, and a big one to boot (10,000 is max; only 8,500 for hockey) and of course no one knew where to go.  So, the concourses were absolutely jammed.  That’ll calm down, I imagine, as folks learn where they want to be.  They’ll get things running quicker at the concessions as well.  Think about opening day at the IronPigs:  After all these years, folks still pack the concourses on opening day for ballpark food and sightseeing.  That’ll calm down.
  • The Center Scoreboard Fully Retracts:   It’s a nice touch.  That hockey-style center board (x4) fully retracts into the ceiling.  Another nice clean look, fully preserving the site lines.
  • Luxury Boxes Rock:   The luxury boxes on levels “3” and “4” offer superb site lines and many comforts.  If you ever get invited to one, jump at it.  The views were really good, if you ask me.
  • And, More:   There are “ice-level” luxury boxes under the stands on the suite side.  They have all the amenities, huge flat-screens, and access to the seats in the club sections.  A really cool idea.
  • Not Done Yet:  Another amazing luxury touch is the “Loge” boxes at the top of the club sections.  Think of them as mini-suites with big leather chairs and marble-like counters.  Another place to visit if you can swing the invite.
  • Finally:  An ice-level party suite sponsored by BSI allows groups to greet the players as they make their way to the ice.  Suite visitors here can then sit glass-side for the game.
  • Cool Areas For the Common Man (and Woman):   The “Miller Lite Loft” above the “closed” (non-stage) end of the arena is a nice place to visit.  Nice high-up end view of the ice, and a bar up there to boot.
  • Micro-Brews Up Top:  I don’t know what it’s called, but there’s a place above the gourmet hamburger stand which has a micro-brew bar and some tables to hang out above the main concourse.  It’s a neat area to get out of the crowd and relax.  It’s mostly a concourse view, though, not so much for the game.
  • I’ll Be At The Bar:   There’s a rectangular bar area right near my hockey seats.  I swear I didn’t know it would be there.  Well, you’ll know where to find me before the games…near section 107.
  • Get Me A Beer:  There are many, many beer choices.  I’ll detail them later, but you’ll find something you like.  There are a ton at Coca Cola Park, too, with some notables missing.  Here, nothing’s missing:  Miller Lite, Yuengling, Coors Light, Micros, Shock Top.  Drafts.  Big giant cans.  All kinds of cool choices.  Not cheap though:  Miller Lite draft cost me $8.  25-oz Bud Light can cost me $9.  Wine and mixed drinks are of course available in the club, but there was a small bar set up on the concourse near section 104 as well.
  • Make Your Calls Before You Go:   The cell signal inside is very, very weak.  There’s talk of boosting it.

Tips if you’re going to the Tom Petty Concert Tonight:

Parking:

Map Courtesy Allentown Parking Authority

Map Courtesy Allentown Parking Authority

Remember the directionality of the streets, and make a plan.  Check AllentownEventParking.com and click on the available lots and decks to check parking availability.  Follow the color-coded signs downtown.

What NOT to do:

  • Be Late.  A little extra time is helpful.
  • Drive Around.  I say find a spot and park.  Walk or hitch a ride with LANTA shuttles.
  • Take Seventh Street.  Or, Linden.  Seventh and Linden was the bottle neck, if you can avoid it, do.
  • Park AT the Arena.  There’s a parking garage “in” the arena.  It’s small, though, and mostly reserved spots for VIPs, Suite holders, and the like.  It will be filled.  Don’t even try to park there.

So enjoy the show.  Word from the tour is that it is excellent.  They’re known to mix it up a bit, but here’s a recent set list:

Steve Winwood:

  1. (Buddy Miles cover)
  2. (Traffic song)
  3. (Traffic song)
  4. (Traffic song)
  5. (Blind Faith song)
  6. (Traffic song)
  7. Encore:
  8. (Blind Faith song) (with Tom Petty)

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers:

  1. (The Byrds cover)
  2. (Tom Petty song)
  3. (Tom Petty song)
  4. (Blind Faith cover) (with Steve Winwood)
  5. (Tom Petty song)
  6. (Tom Petty song)
  7. Encore:
  8. (Tom Petty song)

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Filed under Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Phantoms Hockey