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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Building Up? Philadelphia’s Arena Developments Gain Steam, Tension

  • Comcast Spectacor brings in the Phillies as a development partner in the existing sports complex.
  • The 76ers revise their arena plan to include more street-level retail.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Let the arms race in the Philadelphia arena battle commence. 

Sides in the long-simmering debate have already been drawn, with the Flyers’ parent organization Comcast Spectacor openly pushing to keep the 76ers at its Wells Fargo Center, and the NBA team instead advancing its separate efforts to build a new downtown arena. And, for months, that divide has run along that very straightforward one-arena-or-two philosophical difference. 

But both sides are now actively burnishing their respective arguments.

Comcast Spectacor has formally brought in the neighboring Phillies as a development partner for a dramatic $2.5 billion makeover planned for the south Philadelphia sports complex. The multistage effort calls for the development of two hotels, residential and office space, retail shops, a mid-sized concert venue, outdoor plaza, and upgrades to the existing Xfinity Live! dining and entertainment destination. 

“We’re taking a big step forward,” Phil Laws, Wells Fargo Center president, said to Front Office Sports. “Getting the Phillies on board officially and formally really signals that this project is going to happen. And it highlights the vision we have to take this complex to the next generation.”

Retail Politics

The 76ers, meanwhile, have released an updated building plan for their proposed $1.55 billion venue near Philadelphia’s Chinatown and, in particular, have added more street-level retail and restaurants to the overall development in an effort to help attract more visitation on non-game days, as well as altered planned street closures during games. The shifts arrive in response to community feedback the team has received. 

“While we have made many updates … we are grateful for more opportunities to hear from Philadelphians about how to further strengthen this project,” said David Adelman, 76ers co-owner and lead developer on the team’s project. 

The amended 76ers plan, however, is still drawing rebuke from some groups, with arena opponent Asian Americans United saying it “raises more questions than answers,” and that “developers still fail to address the most persistent public feedback on 76 Place: It’s in the wrong location.”

Laws said the announcement of the Phillies’ involvement is not designed as a gesture toward the 76ers. And while there has been no change in the respective and hardened positions, Laws added the development plan could be altered to accommodate the 76ers should the team radically change course and opt to stay in south Philadelphia. To that end, Comcast Spectacor has had a standing offer to partner equally with the 76ers on a new arena in the existing sports complex.

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