The 76ers have played their home games at the Wells Fargo Center since 1996, having spent the previous twenty-nine seasons at the Spectrum. Well, that’s not exactly accurate. In point of fact, the arena was known as the CoreStates Center when it first opened, then got the First Union Center moniker (loved this one), transitioned to Wachovia Center for a bit, and has been called Wells Fargo Center since 2010. As sports arenas go, it’s… fine. It’s a palace compared to the Spectrum (though without all the soul), but when considered against some of the more recently built arenas around the country, it’s not top notch.
Spectacor was Ed Snider’s corporate entity that formed the Flyers and built the Spectrum. In 1996, Comcast bought into Spectacor, forming Comcast Spectacor, and also facilitated the purchase of the 76ers from Howard Katz. Between 1996 and 2011, Comcast Spectacor owned the Sixers, the Flyers, and the arena in which both teams played. But in 2011, for some reason, Comcast Spectacor sold the Sixers to a group owned by Joshua Harris. At this point, the 76ers were tenants in the Wells Fargo Center, and this situation went south after just a couple years. There have been countless rumors about the ownership group moving the team to New Jersey, in part because of the sweet new training facility in Camden, and also because the same group owns the NJ Devils. As further evidence of their dissatisfaction, the Sixers don’t acknowledge Wells Fargo as a sponsor of their arena, simply referring to the building as “The Center.”
People that closely follow the team generally agree that the Sixers-Wells Fargo Center dynamic isn’t tenable in the long-term. Even with a lease in place, it seems like a foregone conclusion that the local basketball team will find a new home sooner than later. For lifetime fans of the 76ers, especially those of us that have lived through the Process, a move to Jersey would heart-wrenching. But it turns out that Sixers fans across the region need not worry. The 76ers are indeed moving to a new home, but they’re staying in town. Even better, they’re moving to a much more central location than the Sports Complex in South Philly.
According to a source at the 76ers, the team is actively working on a plan to build a new arena on the southwest corner of 30th & Market. There are currently a couple of buildings on this site, along with a parking lot owned by Drexel. The buildings would be demoed, and Ludlow Street struck as part of the plan.
Demolition and striking a street are just a couple of the challenges and bureaucratic hurdles on the horizon, in a project chock full of them. But ownership is cautiously optimistic that they’ll have approvals in hand by this time next year, putting the team on track to open the 2023 season in this new arena. See below for some preliminary renderings from Ambit Architecture, with a sneak peek at the likely name of the stadium:
Obviously, this isn’t yet a done deal, and there are still plenty of details for the team and the City to work through. And there are still many questions in the air, including community response, parking, the challenges of building across the street from our major transit hub, security, what would happen on nights the Sixers aren’t playing, and whether Joel Embiid will be able to play in the first round of the playoffs. All that being said, given the team’s dissatisfaction with its current home and its apparent willingness to move across the river, we have to think the City will do what it can to get this done.