Philadelphia’s iconic Wachovia Spectrum, known only as The Spectrum when it introduced the Philadelphia Flyers NHL expansion team in 1967, will shutter at the end of the 2008-09 hockey season and make way for the Philly Live! entertainment complex.
The Spectrum is a rarity among venues. Most aging facilities are closed when a replacement is built. The Spectrum, however, has thrived next door to the 21,000-capacity Wachovia Center, which now hosts the Flyers and the Philadelphia 76ers while the Spectrum was home turf for minor league affiliates.
Until owner Comcast-Spectacor announced its closure July 15, the Spectrum was attracting capacity crowds for concerts including The Cure and Foo Fighters.
But times have changed and the district is expected to change into Philly Live! with the help of real estate developer Cordish Co.
As Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko noted to Pollstar, the area has evolved with the development of the Citizens Bank Ballpark and Lincoln Financial Field, townhouses, condos and a business center.
Comcast-Spectacor wanted to announce the closing of the Spectrum before Cordish got its building permit.
"We didn’t want leases and permits and everything to be final and then make an announcement next Tuesday we’re shutting the doors," Luukko said. "We wanted to say, ‘Hey, this is the last season,’ and then celebrate the Spectrum and its impact on the market."
Comcast-Spectacor is expecting to use the venue for a pre-season Flyers game as well as a regular-season Sixers game. Luukko and venue owner Ed Snider have longstanding relationships with Live Nation’s Larry Magid since the early days of Electric Factory Concerts, and there is talk of bringing back artists associated with the Spectrum.
Magid brought the facility’s first event in September 1967, the Quaker City Jazz Fest starring Sarah Vaughan and Dave Brubeck. The venue hosted one of Elvis Presley’s last concerts and was a favored venue of Frank Sinatra.
Luukko said the venue could be razed late spring/early summer 2009, although there is no definitive timeline.
Philly Live! is expected to offer a variety of year-round attractions, catering to sports and entertainment fans as well as those not attending events. There are plans for a Main Street setting that will include a distinctive canopy covering the center plaza area of the development, offering visitors restaurants, shops and entertainment. A 300-room hotel is a possible development option.
Meanwhile, Luukko was featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer as "perhaps the most powerful man in Philadelphia sports, the one you probably couldn’t pick out of a police lineup on a bet."
"That’s a good thing," Luukko told Pollstar. "You don’t want to be known as the Wizard of Oz, but I try to keep it as low-key as possible."