The Philadelphia 76ers are creating a new development company that will lead a $1.3 billion project to build a privately funded arena downtown, the team announced Thursday morning.
While the 76ers don’t plan to stay in the arena until the 2031-32 season — the season after their lease expires at their current home, Wells Fargo Center — and won’t start at the new location for several years, the team said it will partner with Macerich, operator of Fashion District Philadelphia, to revive Arena.
“We know the best thing, we think, for the city, for our fans and our organization, is to be downtown in a state-of-the-art facility that will be privately funded by our property team,” Sixers president Tad Brown told ESPN. “This will create a completely new environment, a completely new environment, and this will also give a huge economic boost in promoting development for a part of the city that really needs it.
“We think it’s a win for the city and our organization… It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s a great day.”
Josh Harris and David Blitzer, co-owners of the Sixers, bought the franchise from Comcast in 2011 and had designs to build their own arena in Philadelphia for several years. This included an attempt to build one in Pence Landing, on the east side of the city along the Delaware River. The plan eventually failed two years ago when the city chose to pursue a different development plan.
At that point, Harris and Blitzer decided to team up with David Adelman — a 76-year-old fan, season-ticket holder of more than 20 years and a real estate developer — to form a partnership to offer a new arena.
Adelman will be chairman of the board of a new company, 76 DevCorp, which he, Harris, and Blitzer created. The company will be tasked with transforming the new arena from schemes into reality.
“Honestly, when it happened to Baines Landing, yes, I think one of the shortcomings was that they realized there was no one in Philadelphia running the operation,” Adelman told ESPN. “And there’s no disrespect for New York or anywhere else, but like, you need a local, right?”
Adelman said it was a dream come true to do a “legacy project” in Philadelphia that “my children and grandchildren will know I’ve revitalized a part of Market Street that wasn’t living up to its full potential.”
“And to do that in this partnership is fantastic,” he said.
Brown said the 76ers learned a lot from their setbacks with the Penn’s Landing proposal and that he applied those lessons to the new site. Brown and Adelman said they have already reached agreements with all stakeholders necessary to start the project, including Macerich.
“I think we’ve listened and learned from things we might not have expected for Pence Landing,” Brown said. “That’s why we’re back with better infrastructure, with David Adelman in place. And also, you know, everything is privately funded. So there’s nothing to ask from the state or city this is going to go to.”
“[Asking for public subsidies] Don’t play in Philly. … We wanted to take this question off the table, and we want to build the best facility in the country with our own resources, so that we can offer something to the city.”
Two important questions remain: Will the 76ers remain at Wells Fargo Center for the life of the lease – nine more seasons – and will the Flyers join them in the new endeavor?
Brown and Adelman insisted that the 76ers had no plans to try to speed up the process to get to this new building sooner.
As for Flyers, Brown said talks with their charter partners at the Wells Fargo Center are ongoing. He said Team 76 would love to have Flyers join them on the new project but that the project would go ahead regardless of the hockey team’s decision.
“But everyone knows what we’re looking at organizationally is what will be in the best interests of the city, our fans and our organization,” Brown said. “All we can do is be transparent and open with Comcast as much as we can as we move forward.”
Currently, all four of Philadelphia’s professional sports teams play on the same complex in South Philadelphia that has housed them for the past half century. However, the 76ers believe that breaking with that tradition and building a downtown arena would provide fans with a much better experience.
How many squares did you visit in the heart of the city? [of a city]? “That’s where the puck game is headed,” Adelman said. Currently, the South Philly Sports Complex has a Broad Street line, only one line. We have every line.
“When you leave the Wells Fargo Center, you can’t go for a drink, you can’t get something to eat. You have to go home, and you have to sit in that funnel to get into traffic. Now, our fans were forced to leave two minutes ago, and we need to do something. Better. We need to give them that experience.”
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