The Philadelphia 76ers are creating a new development company that will spearhead a $1.3 billion project to build a privately funded arena in the city’s downtown, the team announced Thursday morning.
While the 76ers don’t plan to be in the arena until the 2031-32 season — the season after the lease expires at their current home, Wells Fargo Center — and they won’t break ground on the new site for several years, the team said it will partner with Macerich, the operator of Fashion District Philadelphia, to bring the arena into being.
“We know the best thing, we believe, for the city, for our fans and for our organization, is to be downtown in a state-of-the-art facility that’s going to be privately funded by our ownership team,” Sixers president Tad Brown told ESPN. “And that’s going to create a brand-new environment, a whole new environment, that’s going to also really give a great economic boost in a development boost to a part of town that really needs it.
“We think it’s a win-win for the city and for our organization. … It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s a great day.”
Sixers co-owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer bought the franchise from Comcast in 2011 and have had designs on building their own arena in Philadelphia for several years. That included an attempted plan to build one at Penn’s Landing, on the East side of the city along the Delaware River. The plan ultimately fell through two years ago when the city chose to go with a different development plan.
At that point, Harris and Blitzer decided to team with David Adelman — a lifelong 76ers fan, a season-ticket holder for more than 20 years and a real estate developer — to form a partnership to deliver a new arena.
Adelman will be the chairman of a new company, 76 DevCorp, that he, Harris and Blitzer are creating. The company will be tasked with bringing the new arena from blueprints to reality.
“Honestly, when Penn’s Landing happened, yeah, I think one of the shortcomings was they realized that there was no Philadelphia person running the process,” Adelman told ESPN. “And no disrespect to New York or anywhere else, but like, you need local, right?”
Adelman said it is a dream come true to do a “legacy project” in Philadelphia that “my kids and grandkids will know that I revitalized a part of Market Street that was a little not living up to its full potential.”
“And to do it in this this partnership is just awesome,” he said.
Brown said the 76ers learned a lot through their setbacks with the Penn’s Landing proposal and that he applied those lessons to the new site. Brown and Adelman said they had already secured agreements with everyone involved necessary, including Macerich, to get the project underway.
“I think we listened and we learned from the things that maybe we weren’t expecting for Penn’s Landing,” Brown said. “That’s why we came back with better infrastructure, with David Adelman in place. And also, you know, it’s all privately financed. So there’s nothing that we’re going to be asking from the city that is going to go into this.
“[Asking for public subsidies] doesn’t play in Philly. … We wanted to take that question off the table, and we want to build the finest facility in the country with our own resources, so that we can give something to the city.”
Two significant questions remain: Will the 76ers stay at Wells Fargo Center for the duration of their lease — another nine seasons — and will the Flyers join them in the new endeavor?
Brown and Adelman insisted the 76ers had no plans to try to speed up the process to get into a new building sooner.
As for the Flyers, Brown said conversations with their co-tenants at Wells Fargo Center are ongoing. He said the 76ers would love to have the Flyers join them in the new venture but that the project would move forward regardless of the hockey team’s decision.
“But everybody knows that what we’re looking for organizationally is what’s going to be in the best interests of the city, of our fans and of our organization,” Brown said. “All we can be as transparent and open with Comcast as we can as we go forward.”
Currently, all four Philadelphia professional sports teams play in the same complex in South Philadelphia that has housed them for the past half-century. The 76ers, however, think breaking away from that tradition and building a downtown arena will provide fans with a much better experience.
“How many arenas have you been to in the urban core [of a city]? That’s where the puck is going,” Adelman said. “Right now, the sports complex in South Philly only has the Broad Street line, only one line. We’ve got every line.
“When you leave Wells Fargo Center, you can’t go have a drink, you can’t get something to eat. You have to go home, and you have to sit in this funnel to get into traffic. Right now, our fans are forced to leave like two minutes early, and we need to do something better. We need to give them this experience.”