Arena Of Steel

A proposed concert venue in Bethlehem, Pa., would allow its 3,500 concert-goers to view the city’s historic steel blast furnaces through a glass wall behind the stage.

SteelStax, a nearly 4-acre site comprising a concert hall and a performing arts center will be part of an $879 million project on the property of the historic Bethlehem Steel plant, a prominent steelmaker during and after World War II.

“We’re hoping the venue will open in (August) 2008 to coincide with Musikfest’s 25th anniversary,” ArtsQuest’s Kim Plyler told Pollstar, adding that it will realistically open in 2009.

SteelStax, run by nonprofit organization ArtsQuest, plans to renovate an old building into a 22,000-square-foot performing arts center and build Festival Hall alongside blast furnaces. Another 8,000 people can be added to the capacity if the hangar doors in the back are opened.

The PAC would house theatres, dance studios, a television studio and a café that would host live music.

Festival Hall will host about 52 events a year, and wants to broadcast live concert performances via podcast and satellite radio.

In addition, a glass wall behind the stage would reveal the hulking steel furnaces illuminated by a $2 million lighting system.

“The whole theme of SteelStax centers around the blast furnaces,” Plyler said.

The 126-acre development project – proposed by BethWorks Now and casino operator Las Vegas Sands – will reportedly include a mall, condominiums, a 3,000-slot casino, restaurants and a National Museum of Industrial History.

The overall project will wrap around as many as 22 restored steel buildings, according to The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa.

– Mitchell Peters