The Philadelphia 76ers confirmed Wednesday to the Philadelphia Business Journal that the team is studying the idea of building a basketball arena at Penn's Landing, but any such plans wouldn't happen any time soon.
The franchise has "long enjoyed a strong relationship" with Wells Fargo Center owner Comcast-Spectacor but is exploring all options for when its lease ends at the arena in 2031, a spokesperson told the Business Journal. Those plans include a potential arena development at Penn's Landing along the Delaware River, the spokesperson said.
The Inquirer first reported Wednesday afternoon the Sixers' potential interest in Penn's Landing between Market and Chestnut streets as a site for a future arena.
The Sixers have shared the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia with the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers since the arena opened in 1996. Comcast-Spectacor, a subsidiary of media giant Comcast Corp., also owns the Flyers.
A team document prepared to garner support for the project and shared with the Philadelphia Business Journal by an industry source states the franchise believes a new Penn's Landing arena will:
- Provide "billions of dollars in net new revenue to the city and the school for a property that currently produces no tax revenues" for the city or the state of Pennsylvania;
- Create "thousands of new jobs, and provide significant new tax revenue" for the city and school district;
- Include the creation of schools, parks and an African-American Museum at Penn's Landing; and
- Directly invest "unprecedented funds" in minority-owned businesses.
The Sixers, owned by Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, are looking at financing the project through a state program, called the Neighborhood Improvement Zone, that permits — in designated areas —the issuance of development bonds backed by future tax revenues generated by the project. The team does not envision seeking any direct appropriation of city or state taxpayer money to support the project.
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New arenas across the U.S. have cost upward of $1 billion, if not more.
The Sixers received $82 million in tax credits from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority for their training facility and team headquarters that opened in Camden in 2016.
Philadelphia City Councilwoman Helen Gym quickly voiced her on Twitter her opposition to the idea of an arena that involves any taxpayer money.
Including in Gym's Twitter tirade was her comment, "In the nexus of sheer misery that we are in as a city — mass unemployment, evictions looming, kids out of schools and people sick and dying — billionaire investors looking for a tax handout ranks about...NOWHERE."
The Delaware River Waterfront Corp. has long been working on a plan to revitalize Penn's Landing. Part of those plans include a new 12-acre park that will be created by a $225 million project that will cap off a portion of I-95 that separates Old City from the waterfront. Construction for the park is scheduled to begin in late 2021.
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