Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Time Has Come

  Wachovia Spectrum 
  Originally uploaded by kevinmcguire

By now I am sure that you have seen the reports of the demise of Philadelphia's beloved Spectrum to make way for a mixed use commercial hotel and entertainment complex.   There's been much hand-wringing about it in the local press.  I just don't know why.

The Spectrum had its moment.  The moment is over.  It's time to bring the old brown hatbox of a building down and make way for the future of extreme South Broad Street.

I'm not going to say that it wasn't a great building in its time.  I had some great times there, whether they were shenanigans in the musty dimness of the upper level during concerts, cheering on Villanova against Big East foes, or taking my kids to the circus.  It was loud and you were close to the action and it seemed like you knew every third or fourth person there. 

But we all no no one pays to go Phantoms games - every ticket I have ever gotten was free.  And the building seems down at its heels,  smells like a urinal and suffers immensely in comparison to its younger cousin across the parking lot to the south.

Between the ice shows, the Phantons, the Wings and third tier concerts it's used about 125 nights a year.  That's pretty darn good for a second arena in a town, but honestly it's just not enough to get in the way of a project that promises to transform the experience of every sports fan in the region when they go to a game.

The Spectrum coming down will make way for a complex that would include a hotel, bars, restaurants, amusements, more parking and perhaps shopping and a museum.  Aside from the obvious need for a good hotel down there, a multi level garage and new street designs would go a long way to helping out on game days.

Where the proposed development really shines is on off-days down at the stadium park.  Right now the area is a ghost town.  Even McFadden's struggles to draw people when there isn't an event.  If you add shopping, more bars, a Dave and Buster's type place and some shops, you have a place that is viable 365 days a year not just 125.

I'd also like to see a Philadelphia Hall of Fame go into the thinking.  We're losing a big piece of our sports history when The Spectrum comes down, so let's preserve a bit of it by enshrining a few of the banners and some of the other memorabilia of the city ion a museum honoring all of the great sports moments for The City of Brotherly Love.  Granted a few more recent championships would help, but I think that a central location that can bring together all our heroes would be a good draw and could be fun if executed properly.

This kind of project has been done before.  The area around Camden Yards is not a perfect comparison since there is a beautiful harbor and it's in the middle of town rather than being stranded in between a superhighway and a million acres of parking lots.  The project that is going up in St. Louis is more like Philly's, but also has more proximity to down town. 

As with everything in this town, the project would be unique with a lot of hurdles to overcome before it happens.  It will also take careful planning and management to prevent another debacle like New Market, Disney Quest, or Penn's Landing.

Let the wrecking ball swing!

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