Philadelphia 76ers’ $1.3 billion project calls for downtown arena by 2031-32


The Philadelphia 76ers are creating a new development company that will lead a $1.3 billion project to build an entirely privately funded arena in the heart of the city’s downtown, the team announced Thursday morning.

While the 76ers don’t plan to be in the arena until the 2031-32 season — the season after the lease at their current home, the Wells Fargo Center, expires — and there will be no work on the new site several years from now, the team said it would partner with Macerich, the operator of the Fashion District of Philadelphia, to bring the arena to life.

“It’s an exciting day for the organization,” Sixers president Tad Brown told ESPN. “There is a clear opportunity to create a state-of-the-art, world-class facility in Philadelphia.

“We know that the best thing we believe for the city, for our fans and for our organization, is to be downtown in a state-of-the-art facility that will be funded by our ownership team. And that’s going to create a whole new environment, a whole new environment, which will also really give a big economic boost in a boost to the development of a part of the city that really needs it.

“We think it’s a win-win situation for the city and for our organization. … It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s a great day.”

Sixers co-owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer bought the franchise from Comcast in 2011 and have been considering building their own arena in Philadelphia for several years. This included an attempted plan to build one at Penn’s Landing, a space on the east side of town along the Delaware River. The plan finally fell through two years ago when the city opted for a different development plan.

At that point, Harris and Blitzer decided to team up with David Adelman — a longtime 76ers fan, season ticket holder for more than 20 years, and real estate developer in his own right — to form a partnership to deliver a new arena. .

Adelman will serve as chairman of a new company, 76 DevCorp, which he, Harris and Blitzer are creating. The company will be responsible for bringing the new arena from plans to reality.

Ultimately, the group thinks it’s on the verge of delivering one with the deal it’s struck to turn part of the downtown Fashion District mall into an arena – although the land on the arena does not break for several years and it would be almost a decade before the team could enter it.

“Honestly, when Penn’s Landing happened, yeah, I think one of the shortcomings was that they realized there was no one person from Philadelphia leading the process,” Adelman told ESPN. “And, no disrespect to New York or anywhere else, but like, you need locals, right?”

Adelman said it was a dream come true to do “a legacy project” in Philadelphia that “my children and grandchildren will know that I revitalized a part of Market Street that was not up to its full potential”.

“And to do that in this partnership is just awesome,” he said.

Brown admitted the 76ers learned a lot from their setbacks with the Penn’s Landing proposal and applied those lessons to this site. Brown and Adelman said they have already reached agreements with everyone involved needed to get the project off the ground, including Macerich.

“I think we listened and we learned things that maybe we didn’t expect for Penn’s Landing,” Brown said. “That’s why we came back with a better infrastructure, with David Adelman in place. And also, you know, it’s all privately funded. So there’s nothing we’re going to ask of the state or the city that will enter this.

“[Asking for public subsidies] don’t play in Philadelphia. … We wanted to take that off the table and we want to build the best facility in the country with our own resources, so we can give something back to the city.”

Two other important questions remain, however: Will the 76ers stay at the Wells Fargo Center for the full term of their lease — currently nine more seasons — and will the Flyers join them in the new venture?

Brown and Adelman insisted the team would in fact play for another nine years at their current home and had no intention of trying to speed up the process to enter the new building sooner.

As for the Flyers, Brown said conversations with their current roommates at the Wells Fargo Center are ongoing. He said the 76ers would like the Flyers to join them in the new venture, but the project would go ahead regardless of the hockey team’s decision.

“But everyone knows what we’re looking for organizationally is what’s going to be in the best interest of the city, our fans and our organization,” Brown said. “Anything we can be as transparent and open with Comcast as possible as we move forward.”

Currently, Philadelphia’s four professional sports teams play at the same South Philadelphia complex that has housed them for half a century. The 76ers, however, believe breaking that tradition and building an arena downtown will give fans a much better experience.

“How many arenas have you visited in the urban core [of a city]? That’s where the puck goes,” Adelman said. “Right now the South Philly Sports Complex only has the Broad Street line, one line. We have all the lines.

“When you leave the Wells Fargo Center, you can’t go for a drink, you can’t eat anything. You have to go home and you have to sit in that funnel to get into traffic. Right now, our fans are forced to leave two minutes earlier, and we have to do something better. We have to give them that experience.”