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Arena project to move forward with dropping of lawsuit

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 23 2012 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 25 2012 04:39:38 AM CDT

NIZ lawsuit dropped

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

The township that sparked the legal drama that's ensnared the planned hockey arena project in Allentown dropped its lawsuit Tuesday night.

With the legal challenges dropped, Allentown's mayor said the project should start rising from the ground within the next two months. But the big question remains: Will it be finished in time?

There's still not much to see at Seventh and Hamilton streets in Allentown, but big things are finally coming.

"You should see some real construction -- major construction -- movement happening there probably within the next 30 to 60 days," said Mayor Ed Pawlowski, D-Allentown.

Hanover Twp., Northampton Co., dropped its lawsuit against the arena project now that suburban tax dollars aren't paying for it. It is the latest community to do so.

According to project supporters, it's now just a matter of getting the bond paperwork ready to borrow the $220 million for the project.

"That will be a process that will transpire over the next 30 days," said Pa. Rep. Jennifer Mann, D-Lehigh County.

Meantime, preparation work is already under way.

"We're doing some micro borings now to actually put the supporting pylons in," said Pawlowski. "They're in the process of making steel for the arena complex itself."

Also Tuesday, the city dropped its $50 million counter-lawsuit against developer Abe Atiyeh, who is still fighting the arena. Pawlowski said he expects the courts to dismiss Atiyeh's challenge.

"[Atiyeh's] suit, as far as we're concerned, doesn't really have any validity," he said. "We're going to drop [our counter-suit] and just move on."

In response, Atiyeh said: "The city never should have filed that suit. It's a bogus, frivolous suit. The city used taxpayer money and an outside firm to file a suit against a taxpayer."

With the project now back on track, the question becomes: will the arena be ready for the 2013-2014 hockey season?

"Everybody is an optimist. I think, very optimistically, we can hope that's the case," said Mann. "If we have another mild winter, that certainly helps our case. Do I think it's going to be a big challenge? I think, admittedly, it will be."

Pawlowski said he's working with the team owners on contingency plans in case the arena is not ready, but he would like to have it host at least part of the 2013-2014 season.