Downtown Allentown’s newest dining and entertainment venue, Sports & Social, is now open at Seventh and Hamilton Streets.
But earlier, Reed Cordish, principal and partner of venue’s parent company, The Cordish Companies, sat down to talk to Lehigh Valley Business about why the company chose Allentown for the newest location of the national brand.
The Cordish Companies is a Baltimore.-based real estate development and entertainment operating company, which owns the Live! Dining & Entertainment brand nationwide. It boasts a number of casinos, restaurants and arenas around the globe. Its properties include Xfinity Live in Philadelphia and it has Sports & Social locations in major cities around the country.
So why did Cordish choose Allentown for its newest Sports & Social?
He said Allentown is becoming a bigger player than many local people may realize.
“For people who live here it might not seem so special,” Cordish said. “But the amount of development at this City Center in the last seven or eight years has been very impressive. More people and more companies are looking to locate downtown.”
He said he expects that growth in the City Center area to grow even more over the next seven years and said those people living and working downtown will need entertainment.
“I think it’s also our job to be a destination that will make people want to travel to Downtown Allentown,” he said.
Cordish said he became aware of the opportunity after being introduced to J.B. Reilly, president of Center City Investment Corp, who has developed the majority of new properties downtown, including the space that Sports & Social is now located.
“He pitched us the idea that Allentown would be a good location for a Sports & Social. I really think it’s a good marriage,” he said.
Reilly said he knew The Cordish Companies would be able to offer a venue that would help bolster the redevelopment downtown.
“We built this critical mass of people living and working in the downtown. It’s the right time to support a world class sports facility like this,” Reilly said. ”When you look at Sports & Social you know you’re looking at the industry leader in this space.”
He said he expects the sports bar, restaurant and entertainment venue to be a success, because The Cordish Companies have experience in bringing such properties to cities undergoing revitalization.
“They have been part of urban revitalization. They were really vital in the redevelopment of Baltimore with Baltimore Live!,” he said. “They understand what it takes to be successful.
Cordish, said that understanding includes the knowledge to not put all of a venue’s eggs in one basket.
Sports & Social locations are often paired with or located near sports venues, such as the nearby PPL Center, but Cordish said the arena, while important in attracting the company to the city, wasn’t the only deciding factor.
Besides offering a scratch-made menu of food ranging from cheesesteaks to tacos, and a full bar of craft drinks, Sports & Social aims to be the “go-to” place for watching sports as well as a place to “pre-game” for Phantoms hockey games at the arena.
But it also will have entertainment, including live music, several times a week. There is an assortment of mostly retro video games, including skee ball, which are aimed at bolstering the social environment.
The goal is to have a big enough variety of entertainment that the venue stands on its own.
Besides regular dining, Cordish said the venue also promotes itself for social events including parties and corporate gatherings.
He said the 10,000-square-foot venue is large enough that several events can go on at once.
“It’s not just a place to watch a game or for people coming to a hockey game. We want it to be a great draw to the downtown when there’s nothing going on at the arena,” Cordish said.