INQUIRER: “This will be the final year of the Spectrum,” Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider announced this morning. “This has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” he said. “The Spectrum is my baby. It’s one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me, but after a lot of thinking and discussions, we all feel it is in our best interest to close the Spectrum at the conclusion of the upcoming 2008-09 Philadelphia Phantoms and Kixx seasons.” That means the last game could come next spring. In its place Comcast-Spectactor is expected to build a new retail-and-entertainment complex that could include a hotel, restaurants, bars, stores and more.Plans for the project, dubbed Philly Live!, have yet to be announced in detail. In January, Snider promised it would be “a truly spectacular experience – a great place for shopping, dining, entertainment and gathering with friends.” The Spectrum, which opened in 1967, was home for the Sixers and Flyers until the often-renamed center next door, now known as the Wachovia Center, opened in 1996. The Spectrum was also long the area’s top venue for concerts, circuses, ice shows and other entertainment events. MORE
RELATED: Turn back the clock for a moment to 1968, to a cold and blustery day in February. About 11,000 people are seated in the year-old Spectrum arena in South Philadelphia. They are waiting for a matinee of the Ice Capades. But the skaters never took the ice that afternoon. Instead, the crowd witnessed an event that nearly caused the financial ruin of the arena and its creators, a group of private investors led by Eagles owner Jerry Wolman and a 35-year-old Eagles vice president named Edward M. Snider. While the spectators watched in amazement, high winds ripped away a 50-by-100-foot section of the Spectrum’s roof and sent it crashing to the ground outside. The building’s fortunes soon followed: Three years later, the arena – built for the city by Wolman’s group at a cost of $12 million – was operating under the protection of federal bankruptcy court.
“The Spectrum wasn’t a very valuable property back then,” Snider recalled. “The roof had made it a national laughingstock.” No one is laughing now. In one of the bigger gambles in the city’s commercial history, Snider – owner of the fledgling Philadelphia Flyers – stepped forward to pull the Spectrum out of bankruptcy court in January 1972 with an offer to pay its more than $8 million in debt. He received in return a 50-year lease to operate the city-owned arena at a minimal rent – $1,250 per month – and without the burden of real estate taxes. In addition, he was guaranteed the lion’s share of profits from an adjacent city parking lot. Example: The lot generated revenues of $1.2 million last year, according to city officials, and $757,550.02 of it went to Snider. MORE