Philadelphia 76ers’ $1.3 billion project calls for downtown arena by 2031-32

The Philadelphia 76ers are forming a new development company that will spearhead a $1.3 billion project to build an entirely privately funded arena in the heart of the city’s downtown, the team announced Thursday morning.

While the 76ers don’t plan to be at the arena until the 2031-32 season — the season after the lease expires at their current home, the Wells Fargo Center — there will be no groundbreaking at the new location for several years, the team said that it will work with Macerich, operator of the Fashion District Philadelphia, to bring the arena to life.

“It’s an exciting day for the organization,” Sixers President Tad Brown told ESPN. “There is a clear opportunity to create a world-class, state-of-the-art facility in Philadelphia.

“We know that being downtown in a state-of-the-art facility that is privately funded by our ownership team is what we believe is best for the city, for our fans and for our organization. And that’s going to create a brand new environment, a whole new environment that’s also going to be a big economic boost in a development spurt for a part of the city that really needs it.

“We think it’s a win-win situation 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 had planned for several years to build their own arena in Philadelphia. This included trying to build one at Penn’s Landing, a plaza on the east side of town next to the Delaware River. The plan ultimately fell through two years ago when the city decided on a different development plan.

It was at this point that Harris and Blitzer decided to work with David Adelman — a lifelong 76ers fan, season ticket holder for more than 20 years, and real estate developer himself — to partner to create a new arena.

Adelman becomes the chairman of a new company, 76 DevCorp, which he, Harris and Blitzer start. The company is tasked with turning the new arena of designs into reality.

Ultimately, the group believes that with the deal it struck to turn part of the downtown Fashion District mall into an arena, it’s on track to deliver one — though the floor in the arena hasn’t for several years would break and it would be almost a decade before the team could go inside.

“Honestly, when Penn’s Landing happened, yeah, I think one of the flaws was that they realized there wasn’t a person from Philadelphia leading the process,” Adelman told ESPN. “And no disrespect to New York or anywhere else, but like, you need local, right?”

Adelman said it was a dream come true to do “a legacy project” in Philadelphia, “that my kids and grandkids will know I’ve revitalized a part of Market Street that just wasn’t living up to its full potential.”

“And to do it in this partnership is just amazing,” he said.

Brown admitted that the 76ers learned a lot from their setbacks with the Penn’s Landing proposal and that he applied those lessons to this side. Brown and Adelman said they have already reached agreements with all stakeholders needed to get the project off the ground, including Macerich.

“I think we listened and learned from things that we might not have expected for Penn’s Landing,” Brown said. “So we came back with better infrastructure, with David Adelman in place. And everything is privately funded. So there’s nothing we’re going to ask of the state or city we’re going to go to this.

“[Asking for public subsidies] does not play in Philly. … We wanted to take this question off the table and use our own resources to build the most beautiful facility in the country to give something to the city.”

Two other key questions remain, though: Will the 76ers stay at the Wells Fargo Center for the length of their lease — currently another nine seasons — and will the Flyers join them in the new venture?

Brown and Adelman were adamant that the team would indeed play another nine years at their current home and had no plans to rush the process to get into this new building sooner.

Regarding the Flyers, Brown said talks are ongoing with her current roommates at the Wells Fargo Center. He said the 76ers would love the Flyers to join them in the new venture, but that the project would move forward regardless of the hockey team’s decision.

“But everyone knows what we’re looking for organizationally is what’s in the best interest of the city, our fans and our organization,” Brown said. “Everything we can at Comcast is as transparent and open as possible as we move forward.”

Currently, all four of Philadelphia’s professional sports teams play in the same South Philadelphia complex that has housed them for half a century. However, the 76ers believe that moving away from that tradition and building a downtown arena will offer fans a much better experience.

“How many downtown arenas have you been to [of a city]? That’s where the puck goes,” Adelman said. “Right now the South Philly sports complex only has the Broad Street line, just one line. We have every line.

“If you leave the Wells Fargo Center, you can’t go out for a drink, you can’t get anything to eat. You have to go home and sit in this funnel to get into traffic. Right now, our fans are forced to go two minutes early and we need to do something better. We have to give them that experience.” Philadelphia 76ers’ $1.3 billion project calls for downtown arena by 2031-32

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