By now, you have surely heard about the proposed 76 Place, a new 18,500-seat Sixers arena that would sit on what is now the western end of the Fashion District in Market East. We actually provided an update just a few weeks back about the chances of this moving forward, unaware that a yet-to-be-announced public meeting would be taking place shortly thereafter. That meeting took place last night and was hosted by the Washington Square West Civic Association, a neighborhood group immediately adjacent to the planned arena.

An older map and a newer massing model show the arena location
An older rendering shows off an aerial view of the proposed arena

Thanks to said meeting (which can be viewed here in its entirety), we have several new renderings that show just how transformational this project could be. This meeting was unlike anything we had seen before, with an RCO hosting an event not within the borders, with the 76 Place team presenting first, followed by a presentation by Comcast Spectacor – the owner of the Sixers’ current home at the Wells Fargo Center – with both groups having 45 minutes of exclusive time with the audience. Councilmember Squilla also participated, answering several questions at the end for this project which would sit in his district. Let’s start off with some before-and-afters of the 76 Place proposal before we dive into the nitty gritty.

Current view looking west at the Fashion District
A rendering isn't wildly different...but do we see two new towers?!
Current view of the NW corner of 10th & Market
A giant digital wall and an open-air sports bar would hold down the corner in the future
View from 11th & Market, which is currently a movie theater and shops
The new arena would take up the entirety of the block between 10th & 11th St.
Looking west down Filbert St., which is still open to traffic
The same view shows the build-out across Filbert St. and a turn to a pedestrian-friendly area

These plans, designed by Gensler, would shift the area’s current mall-focused retail into something of a new gathering center. With direct connections to a cleaned-up (though otherwise unaltered) Jefferson Station, this would add additional retail opportunities along Market to supplement what’s left of the Fashion District. The footprint of the building would jump over the currently-open Filbert St. to the north but would open up the pedestrian experience more, with additional street closures during events. This is possible thanks to lifting the level of the court to the second floor, keeping the flow of people moving throughout the concourse. A sports bar and open areas inside would allow for people to congregate around the arena, blurring the lines between those inside and outside of the ticketed area.

Site plan shows increased pedestrian flow and ample ground-level retail opportunities
A cut-away of the building shows how the arena will be positioned over the ground level, with all loading below grade
The public concourse area shows train and arena connectivity
Slide-12a Market St. Indoor Atrium
A look at what would greet people coming in from the Market St. side
Slide-13a Coming From Mall Walking To Arena
Walking from the existing Fashion District, people would be greeted by a gathering space that offers glimpses of the arena
A rendering from inside the arena, with Embiid dropping 59 points sometime in the early 2030s

In addition to the new renderings and layout – all of which are still in the conceptual stage – the 76 Place team addressed many of the hot-button issues that have come up from concerned residents of the area. With regard to traffic, all Sixers season ticket holders will get SEPTA/PATCO passes, hopefully eliminating some of the concerns about increased car traffic in the area. The team will partner with 29 local garages to develop an app which would guide parking pass holders to the closest open parking garage, easing concerns of congestion. Additionally, the team is conducting a far-ranging study of the intersections in the area to help determine other potential issues with traffic flow. One other key point was the number of people that will be able to walk to the arena instead, highlighted by a graphic of geo-location data showing where game attendees typically come from within the city.

A graphic showing the location of game attendees who Ubered to games in years past

A community benefits agreement (CBA) was also discussed, namely to address concerns around cleanliness, crime and supporting the local community. A $50 million CBA was proposed, which would be one of the largest in the country, providing the ability to provide the types of services that the local community deems to be the most essential to move ahead. This includes potentially subsidizing ticket holders dining at local businesses., offering a direct financial benefit to the surrounding area.

A summary of the community benefits agreement, which would be the largest in the city's history

Finally, the team addressed the overall economic impact of this privately-funded, $1.3 billion project. The team stressed the added jobs and suggested that this will provide a net $400 million benefit to the local economy, though they offered few specific details. Once the presentation ended, several questions were asked from the audience, showcasing the wide range of views from those impacted. When a representative from HBSE (the ownership group’s management company) wrapped up the presentation, a stake was planted firmly in the ground: “We will not be playing in Wells Fargo Center when our lease is up.” Whether that future is in Market East, Camden, or someplace else altogether, we couldn’t tell you, but it sure sounds like the Sixers have no plans to play in South Philadelphia past 2031.

And as for that lease? Representatives from Comcast Spectacor, the company that owns and runs the Wells Fargo Center, presented what amounted to a plea for the team to remain, highlighting the recent $400 million dollar upgrade and the benefits of the South Philly complex, while offering little in terms of helpful information to the WSW audience. When the Spectacor team announced they were looking into plans for a ~5,000 arena for concerts and eSports, we couldn’t help ourselves but to ask why this time would be different from their previous starts and stops, with the team stating that the post-Covid world made this the right time to move. It was abundantly clear that Comcast wants the Sixers to stay, even highlighting their willingness to sell a stake in the Wells Fargo Center to the Sixers.

A rendering of the future exterior changes to the Wells Fargo Center

So… is a new Center City arena going to happen? It’s still tough to say, but the 76 Place team indicated a clear determination to find a new home which they will own. It seems as if momentum is building for a Market East move, but so much can happen before we see Joel dropping a 59 piece in 2032 on Market Street. All we know is that we are bound to hear more and more about this project as feedback is gathered and plans are refined. Let’s hope the end result is a bit happier than the end result of this past season.