76ers Plan $1.3B Arena in Center City, But Nearby Leaders Push Back

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Philadelphia 76ers plan to build a privately funded arena in Center City at the current site of Fashion District Philadelphia.

Sixers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer made the announcement in a press release Thursday morning, saying a new development company, 76 Devcorp, will develop the $1.3 billion arena. The sports and entertainment venue would be located on a “portion” of the Fashion District.

“The Philadelphia 76ers are a storied Philadelphia institution with a proven track record of investing in their community. That’s why we’re committed to building a world-class home in the heart of the City and creating a privately-funded arena that strengthens ties within the local community through investments that prioritize equity, inclusivity and accessibility,” Harris said in a statement.

The project would provide well-paying jobs and economic opportunities to locals, he said. The team pledged a “robust” community engagement process as it pursues the development. It also committed to investing in under-resourced communities.

In an email to NBC10, Kevin Lessard, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney's spokesman, said in an email that the administration backs the proposal and believes the chosen site is ideal for the new arena.

"We’re looking forward to the development corporation, led by native Philadelphian David Adelman, leading a thoughtful engagement process, in collaboration with the community, that results in the best proposal – one that our entire City can get behind," Lessard said.

The team assessed various locations for a new arena but chose the Fashion District due to its proximity to mass transit and the opportunity to redevelop existing commercial space and to “play a role in the continued revitalization of Center City,” the team said.

But leaders of Center City's nearby Chinatown neighborhood immediately pushed back on the idea of a sports arena in that location. They said that the 76ers franchise made this announcement without engaging with the Chinatown community.

"What has the NBA arena in Washington D.C.’s Chinatown done? It has reduced Chinatown from a residential neighborhood of thousands to a few restaurants, signs on the Starbucks in Chinese, and the Chinatown gate," Steven Zhu, President of the Chinese Restaurant Association, said. "We know that these big sports arenas do not contribute to the neighborhoods that they are in; they serve only their own needs and their own profits."

The Sixers said in their announcement that the arena would generate $1.9 billion in overall economic output during construction and $400 million annually upon opening.

Tom O’Hern, CEO of the Macerich real estate company that controls operations at the Fashion District, said in the same press release that repurposing part of the site for the arena is a “natural evolution of the site and a unique and once in a lifetime opportunity for our company.”

The Sixers currently play at the Wells Fargo Center in the South Philadelphia Stadium District, the sports complex that also houses stadiums for the Eagles football team and the Phillies baseball team.

In a statement, Comcast Spectacor, which owns the Wells Fargo Center, noted it has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the sports complex and said it looks forward to hosting the Sixers for the better part of the next decade.

“We’ve had a terrific partnership with the Sixers for decades and look forward to hosting the team in this world-class facility until at least 2031," the company said.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns this TV station.

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