Lehigh Valley

Large crowd expected at Phantoms' home opener

Phantoms home opener

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - More than 8,000 people are expected to show up to Saturday night's home opener of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

The minor league hockey team in Allentown will take on the Springfield Thunderbirds at the PPL Center where crews and the team have been preparing for the summer.

Fans started showing up to the downtown area early Saturday afternoon.

"It's really fun in the heat of the moment when everybody is on the ice," said Tori Smith. "Everybody's cheering it on."

Fans can expect new features and moments at the home opener.

"We got a towel rally give away. We got a new lighting system -- lights that'll be strobing all around," said Chris Porreca, the executive vice president for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. "I think they'll see a lot of energy and a lot of family fun."

Porreca expected about 8,500 people to fill up the seats at the PPL Center on Saturday night and have space open at standing room only.

While the excitement builds for the game, local businesses say they'll be reaping in the benefits of more people downtown.

Queen City BBQ, across the street from the PPL Center, opened a couple of weeks ago. General Manager Josh Belkoff said he and his staff are preparing for more customers. On Saturday night, 200 patrons made reservations for the locally-owned restaurant.

"We've very excited," said Belkoff. "It brings business. It's advertising. It's word of mouth."

It'll likely be a busy season for those working at the Queen City BBQ, too. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are scheduled to play 38 home games.

"We haven't seen a lot of the fans throughout the summer," said Porreca. "We got to see them again. Really, it's our family coming back and being together tonight and the rest of the season as well."

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms will go up against the Springfield Thunderbirds at 7:05p.m.

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