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SPECTRAL SHELL

February 16, 2011

Inquirer - Philadelphia, PA - January 16, 2011

 

The yellow excavator rolled down the Zamboni tunnel shortly after lunch break on Friday. Like a big slow-moving insect, it turned, and, with devastating efficiency, its long-armed claw grabbed at a row of 18 seats. The engine roared as the claw yanked at the Spectrum's carcass.

 

Concrete dust filled the arena, tiny specks glittering in the midday sunlight streaming through a hole in the arena's wall. The excavator claw stripped reinforcing rebar from the concrete with the ease of a woman pulling a thread on the hem of her dress.

 

Metal screeching - not cheers of joy or howls of fan frustration - echoed in the bleak Spectrum, once home to the Flyers, Sixers, circuses, concerts, prizefights, truck shows, and rodeos.

 

Looking on was Jerry Harbora, an official with the firm overseeing the arena's multimillion-dollar redevelopment. This was progress. But on Friday, when prompted, he could not help but recall nostalgically some of his life's high points in the venue he was tearing down.

 

"I saw the Rolling Stones here in 1973," Harbora, 61, said. "Seven dollars and 50 cents. I still have the ticket. I saw Joe Frazier fight here many times. This was a great place for anything. I brought my kids to the circus. You can't believe it's coming down."

 

For those looking on from the outside, from a car on Broad Street or even on I-95, it might seem that the Spectrum won a reprieve from its end of days. There was the media event in November when the wrecking ball punctured a hole in the Spectrum's wall.

 

But then not much else seemed to happen. The arena still looks, for the most part, the same as it has for more than 40 years, with its distinctive circular brick wall.

 

But inside is a different story. A hard-hatted demolition crew of about 10, with the help of four excavators and a front-end loader, has torn apart the Spectrum's cavernous interior over the last several weeks. There are holes where the luxury suites were. Wires drip haphazardly from the ceiling. The Bullies restaurant is gone. On Friday, executive offices were being reduced to dust and rubble.

 

There remain vestiges of the Spectrum's past: torn pictures of sports stars; Dunkin' Donuts, Peco, and Pepsi signs; the scoreboard. Gary Patrick, a superintendent with Geppert Bros. Inc., a Colmar demolition firm, said the scoreboard would come down with the roof. He said demolition of the outside walls should begin next month.

 

Comcast Spectacor L.P., which owns the Spectrum, has been creatively selling off pieces of the arena or packaging them as memorabilia. Fans can buy seats, pieces of the hockey glass, and Spectrum bricks. In one of the more novel souvenir ventures, Comcast Spectacor drained the last Spectrum ice into five-gallon drums and shipped the liquid to a company in Chicago. The company put the melted ice water into drink coasters. The coasters, according to Comcast Spectacor spokesman Ike Richman, can be put in the freezer and then taken out and used to keep drinks cold.

 

They have sold thousands of copies of the God Bless the Spectrum commemorative book, which was produced in conjunction with the Philadelphia Daily News, Richman said. The book and other products are available through the website rememberthespectrum.com.

 

Some of the proceeds of the sale of Spectrum items will benefit the Comcast Spectacor Foundation, Richman said.

Officials say they expect to break ground in April for Philly Live, a restaurant and entertainment complex that will rise from the Spectrum's rubble. Baltimore's Cordish Co. is developing Philly Live with Comcast Spectacor.

 

Walking up the Zamboni tunnel, Richman carried a board that said "Cotton Candy" that apparently was part of a Spectrum concession stand. He had salvaged it. Someone is always asking for mementos, he said. Richman, who has worked for Comcast Spectacor for more than 20 years, noted sadly that this may be the last time he walks the Spectrum's Zamboni tunnel. Added Harbora, "A lot of elephants came down this tunnel."

 

Roof falls at the Spectrum

February 14, 2011

Inquirer - Philadelphia, PA - February 14, 2011

When demolition began at the Spectrum Nov. 23 - accompanied by a recording of Bruce Springsteen's "The Wrecking Ball" - there wasn't much to see.

The ball took several swings, as hundreds watched, to knock even a few bricks loose. The first lurch towards the venue's destruction was ceremonial and as damaging as a bottle of champagne hurled against the prow of a battleship.

The Spectrum, which opened in 1967, holds many memories for local sports fans as well as popular music lovers. A new entertainment complex will replace it.

Monday morning, with all of the arena's interior gone, all that was standing was the skeletal frame of the venue and its roof.

At midafternoon a drill mounted on a hydraulic arm delivered strategically placed love taps to one of the supports. It started slowly. A crack was followed by a puff of concrete dust. As if in slow motion, the pillar yielded. The roof groaned, crumpled leisurely, gathered momentum, then caved in suddenly unleasing a tsunami of grey powder that enveloped the structure in a cloud.

Seconds later, the roof was on ground level. The Spectrum was one step closer to being erased from South Philadelphia.

 

Bob Ford: Spectrum transcended its unremarkable structure

November 24, 2010

Inquirer - Philadelphia, PA - November 24, 2010

By 1 p.m. Tuesday, a good half-hour after an orange, four-ton wrecking ball began tapping the south side of the Spectrum - first gently, then grimly - the hole in this piece of Philadelphia sports history was still not much bigger than the ones Darryl Dawkins left in a couple of backboards way back when.

The wrecking ball was mostly for show, anyway, which was fitting for a place that was all about putting on a good show. It served as the tolling bell to close a ceremony that marked the beginning of the demolition process of this city's first "modern" sports venue.

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Ed Snider spoke, Bob Clarke spoke, Mayor Nutter spoke, Julius Erving spoke and spoke and spoke. They brought essentially the same message, which was, "Things that mattered happened here." In the end, the "things" were more important than the "here," because the Spectrum was an unremarkable architectural structure, but nevertheless that is where they happened.

Once the show wrapped up on Tuesday and the small crowd of curiosity seekers dispersed, the wrecking ball stopped its slow, Pat Burrell swing and the real work was given over to an enormous mechanical claw that will gouge and bite the Spectrum with greater efficiency. On a somewhat somber day, it wouldn't have been appropriate to end the commemorating speeches - assuming Doc has finished by now - and then watch the building get attacked by something out of a Japanese monster movie. The claw will do its work without fanfare, and soon enough the Spectrum will be nothing but rubble.

Snider said he wasn't going to stick around for the wrecking ball show and he didn't, climbing into a car and leaving before the first blow was struck. The Comcast-Spectacor chairman said he was too emotional about losing the Spectrum, although he will sell you a brick if you send in a few bucks.

The business side of things has to be served, and that is what finally got the Spectrum. It had been in use for 42 years, and things were starting to go. Was it worth putting in new electrical and plumbing systems and other necessary infrastructure improvements for an outdated building that was used merely for overflow or small revenue events? "Not really," was the answer, and as much as Snider might regret the reality of the decision, he was the one who made it.

Tuesday's ceremony was more anti-climax than climax. The Spectrum has been closing so long, it might have been the Benny Goodman Orchestra that played the farewell concert. There were a lot of sentimental "lasts" - the last hockey game, the last basketball game, the last concert, the last guy to throw up in a restroom sink. They killed it softly and slowly, then let the looters inside - for $25 a pop - to cart out the detritus of broken red chairs and cracked signs reading, "EXIT."

Five years ago, when Convention Hall was demolished, there very nearly wasn't a peep about it. They just closed the doors and knocked it down. It was merely the place where Wilt and Russell staged half of their incredible wars, where an NBA All-Star Game was held, where the Beatles and Rolling Stones performed. The Pope played Convention Hall.

Unlike that muted closing act, the Spectrum got the full send-off and, to be honest, it was deserved. It wasn't until the Spectrum was constructed in South Philadelphia, adjacent to JFK Stadium, that the concept of a "sports complex" took hold. The groundbreaking ceremony for the Veterans Stadium construction took place two days after the Spectrum opened.

The complex created a focus for sports in Philadelphia, a communal gathering place that became tribal grounds for the fans of the four professional teams. That sense is what remains after the Vet came and went, replaced by two stadiums, and after the Spectrum was overshadowed by the new arena, which stepped into the old, faded footprint of Municipal/JFK Stadium, the place that started it all.

You can debate the beauty of the location - this was mostly a boggy wetlands before being reclaimed and reformed for the 1926 Sesquicentennial world's fair - but Philadelphia could have done a lot worse. Bob Carpenter bought land near Garden State Park in the late 1950s and might have moved the Phillies to New Jersey if things had gone a little differently. (He was particularly unhappy he couldn't sell beer on Sundays in Pennsylvania at the time.) Harold Katz also came close to moving across the river with the 76ers as he and Snider butted heads on the financials of a new arena. Leonard Tose very nearly sold the Eagles to Phoenix in 1984 after another bad night at the craps table.

Instead, they somehow stayed together, and the sports complex rose and matured around the Spectrum, a low, sort of average building that became a site for exceptional happenings. Six Stanley Cup Finals, four NBA Finals, two Final Fours, and on and on. It hosted moments that mattered and will continue to matter even after whatever is built in its place is also knocked down to make way for the next hot new idea.

Bruce Springsteen played the Spectrum many times, including the night after John Lennon was murdered in 1980. "It's a hard thing to come out and play, but there's just nothing else you can do," he said. More than three hours later, he closed the show with "Twist And Shout," which is all about living while you can.

On Tuesday, they played "Wrecking Ball," Springsteen's ode to Giants Stadium, as the ball struck the Spectrum. That was appropriate in an artistic sense, but it was a song for the passing and not for the living that came before, which is the part that matters.

The Spectrum was crowded and loud and hot and smelled of burned popcorn. There was gum under the seats and the concrete stuck to your soles sometimes. One narrow concourse served all three seating levels and there weren't ever enough bathrooms. But great things happened there. All the time. Maybe they would have happened somewhere else, but maybe not. Maybe the Spectrum just knew how to open the doors and then get out of the way.

 

 

Philly's Spectrum gives way to the wrecking ball

November 24, 2010

Inquirer - Philadelphia, PA - November 24, 2010

Forty-three years after sporting competition debuted there with Joe Frazier's devastating left hooks, the Spectrum's demolition began Tuesday afternoon with a series of soft jabs to its brick and glass exterior.

Beneath gray skies symbolic of the funereal mood, a crowd of several thousand Philadelphia sports fans - passionate, sentimental and a bit shabby - gathered on the Spectrum's south side to witness both its demolition and the formal goodbyes from some of the graying performers who had starred there.

"It's a sad day," said ex-76ers great Julius Erving, "because some memories will be taken away." That process began at 12:33 p.m. when, more than a year after the South Philadelphia arena formally closed, a four-ton orange wrecking ball began a surprisingly tentative assault on the multipurpose facility once billed as "America's Showplace."

A Comcast-Spectacor official said it would take "four to five months" for the building to be razed. Sometime after that, the first phase of Philly Live, a retail, entertainment and dining development aimed at capitalizing on its proximity to the busy sports complex, will get started.

As fans and the assembled sports, business and political leaders looked on, the giant ball, suspended from a 180-foot-high Geppert Bros. crane, required several blows to poke a tiny perforation in the building's brown, sardine can-shaped facade.

The first few mechanical punches, accompanied at first by Bruce Springsteen's "Wrecking Ball" and then John Mellencamp's "Crumblin' Down," kicked up only little puffs of dust. Before long the fans, many of whom had been anticipating a more dramatic fall, began drifting away.

Comcast-Spectacor officials explained that the building's structure was not ideally suited for implosion and that this more deliberate destruction also would permit more of its bricks and iron to be salvaged. Its bricks, by the way, can be purchased for $39.95 apiece.

While Erving's belated arrival drew the day's loudest cheers and while his Sixers had won the 1983 NBA title while tenants there, the Spectrum's "Last Shot" ceremony had the distinct orange flavor of the building's other primary occupants, the Flyers.

Many spectators wore Flyers jerseys that bore the names of stars from disparate eras, ranging from the Broad Street Bullies' Dave Schultz to the current team's Mike Richards.

"We will always remember the Spectrum," said Bobby Clarke, the Hall of Fame captain of those Bullies. "God bless the Spectrum."

Clarke, Schultz and teammates Bernie Parent, Joe Watson, Bill Clement, and Bob Kelly were on hand for the noon ceremony, as were several other club officials, including Ed Snider, the Flyers' longtime owner and Comcast-Spectacor's chairman.

Snider admitted to "mixed emotions," noting he was sad to see the building he'd help conceive get torn down but happy that Philly Live will give his hometown "something no other city in America has."

Like most modern arenas, the Spectrum had several corporate sponsors during its final decades. Looking across the parking lot at its newer, grander sister facility, Snider alluded to that trend, calling it the "Wells Fargo, or whatever it's called now, Center."

Clarke's Broad Street Bullies won consecutive Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975, the first title provoking a gigantic Center City parade that Mayor Nutter admitted attending after leaving St. Joseph's Prep "somewhat early."

"It's not really the end of an era," Nutter said, trying to paint an optimistic face on the happenings. "It's really the start of a new one for our great city. . . . There will always be something going on at PhillyLive."

Erving, after being introduced by the recorded voice of Dave Zinkoff, the 76ers' long-dead P.A. announcer, gave the day's longest speech, a rambling address highlighted by his recollection of the night Santa Claus got involved in a Spectrum brawl.

For a Christmas season game one year, the arena's security personnel dressed up like Santa Claus. During the game, they responded to a fight in the stands.

"I looked up and the Santa Clauses were throwing haymakers at the unruly fans," said Erving, "and the fans were returning the favor. We had to stop the game and check that out!"

The building also hosted circuses, truck shows, lacrosse, college basketball and, like that debut Frazier-Tony Doyle bout on Oct. 17, 1967, several fights. There also were thousands of rock concerts over the years, most notably 50 by the Grateful Dead and 51 by Springsteen.

Comcast-Spectacor president Peter Luuko recalled the "funny smell" that accompanied those Dead shows in particular, a reference to the popularity of marijuana among that group's fans.

When it opened in the fall of 1967, the city's first modern arena had only one sporting neighbor, JFK Stadium, an enormous and ancient facility that hosted the annual Army-Navy Game and little else.

But for the last years of its existence, the Spectrum was the runt in a sporting litter that included three newer, grander structures - the Wells Fargo Center, Citizens Bank Park, and Lincoln Financial Field.

"We will hold the memories of the Spectrum in our minds and our hearts forever," said Erving, "and I hold that I will forever be one of Philadelphia's favorite sons."

 

Thousands bid farewell as Philly Spectrum razing begins

November 24, 2010

Inquirer - Philadelphia, PA - November 24, 2010 

 

They came for the discount hot dogs and sodas and to watch a wrecking ball smash through Philadelphia's beloved Spectrum, but more than anything, they came for the memories.

Several thousand sports fans - many wearing the colors of the Flyers and 76ers - and music lovers who attended concerts there gathered Tuesday in a parking lot across from the South Philadelphia arena to share recollections.

Amid a block-party atmosphere that included carnival-style games and the retro-rock band Kindred Spirit, they listened to some of Philadelphia's sports icons reflect on their great times at the Spectrum.

About noon, Sixers great Julius Erving and Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, and other retired Flyers took to the lectern amid loud cheers.

Bill Wyche, a retired postal worker from Germantown, rode the Broad Street subway to the Spectrum hauling three large 1970s-vintage posters of Erving and other NBA greats.

"I'm going to try to get Dr. J to sign them," Wyche said, adding that he remembered seeing many Sixers games and shows at the Spectrum.

"I was born and raised in South Philadelphia, so we would come down here all the time," he said. "We watched them build the Spectrum."

Wyche said he later brought his sons and grandsons to the arena: "I used to take them to see monster-truck shows."

Brothers Darien, 38, and Byron Gans, 39, carried two huge pairs of white sneakers with red trim that they said had been worn by Sixers legends.

"These are Dr. J's game shoes he wore in the '70s," said Darien Gans, holding a pair of high-tops.

"And this pair was Moses Malone's," said Byron Gans, a pair of low-tops slung over his shoulder. The brothers said they were co-owners of the Shoe Kings store in Camden.

Asked how they acquired the shoes, Darien Gans said, "I'm a collector. We get them from different people."

He said he wanted to give Erving a pair of the champion's former sneakers, and "I also want him to sign a poster and a pair of shoes for me."

"This is about being a part of what we do," said Byron Gans, adding that he and his brother were raised in Philadelphia and were die-hard Sixers fans.

Staffing one of several vending tables, LaToya Dalmida, an employee of Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the Spectrum and the Wells Fargo Center, was taking orders for commemorative Spectrum bricks at a brisk pace.

"We're selling lots of them," Dalmida said of the bricks, which cost nearly $50 with shipping and handling. "We had a line even before we set up this morning." (The bricks and other Spectrum memorabilia can be ordered at www.rememberthespectrum.com)

A man who identified himself as Styxxx, 58, a printer from the Nicetown section, said he had attended dozens of rock concerts at the Spectrum.

Sporting a well-worn Rolling Stones T-shirt, Styxxx said: "I was here for my first concert. I came to see Rod Stewart."

He was carrying a scrapbook thick with vintage concert photos and ticket stubs.

"I saw the Stones here in 1972," he said. "This was the place to be."

After speeches by Mayor Nutter, Erving, Clarke, and Parent, an orange wrecking ball went to work, drawing ooohs and aaaahs from the crowd.

The ball struck the building about two dozen times, ripping a relatively small hole in the brick facade and smashing through a bank of smoked-glass windows.

Officials said the demolition would take about four months.

"At this pace," said Ron Pearson, a Wilmington resident who wore a Grateful Dead T-shirt, "it's going to take nine years to knock the place down."

 

Philly fans bid Spectrum farewell

November 23, 2010

 

ESPN.COM - New York, NY - November 23, 2010

 

The Spectrum, the Philadelphia arena that hosted decades of professional sports and concerts, met its end Tuesday, not with a bang but with the brute force of a wrecking ball.

Hundreds of fans and former players, including Hall of Famers Julius "Dr. J" Erving of the Philadelphia 76ers and Bernie Parent of the Philadelphia Flyers, watched the 43-year-old arena's demise with the building's developer, Ed Snider.

"Thanks very much to Mr. Snider for this great old building that was home to so many of us," Clarke said at a pre-demolition ceremony Tuesday. "On behalf of the old Flyers teams and the old Flyers players ... we will always remember the Spectrum."

The building didn't go quickly: It took more than a half-dozen swings for the orange wrecking ball to make a noticeable dent in its brick facade. The first few whacks seemed only to send puffs of dust into the air. It's expected to take four to five months to fully come down.

The Spectrum, one-time home to the city's basketball and hockey teams, had been unused for the past year as developers planned to replace it with a retail, restaurant and entertainment development called Philly Live.

Snider spoke of his enthusiasm for the new project but said he was unsure if he could actually watch the wrecking ball hit.

"I'm really very sad to see the Spectrum go," he said.

So were fans. Jeanette Levy, 44, of Marlton, N.J., said she missed the intimacy of the Spectrum compared with the larger arena that replaced it, the Wells Fargo Center. The Spectrum's layout put fans closer to the action -- and each other, said Levy, a die-hard Flyers fan.

"The Spectrum, it was a family," she said. "The move across the street, they became more corporate."

Unlike many other stadium demolition projects, the Spectrum wasn't imploded. Officials cited the way the arena was constructed in their decision to use less spectacular methods.

Located at the foot of Broad Street in South Philadelphia, The Spectrum opened on Sept. 30, 1967, with a jazz festival; concession stand prices were 35 cents for a hot dog and 25 cents for a 12-ounce soda.

Snider built the arena to bring an NHL team to Philadelphia and became the founding owner of the Flyers. The club -- lovingly dubbed the Broad Street Bullies -- soon made the city proud, winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974-75.

In 1976, the Flyers hosted the Soviet Central Red Army team. The Soviets left the Spectrum ice mid-game to protest the officiating, but returned after Snider threatened to withhold their pay. The Flyers won, 4-1.

The Spectrum also served as home court for Erving and the 76ers, who won an NBA title in 1983. Darien Gans, who co-owns a vintage sneaker store, brought a pair of Erving's game-worn size 16 Converse high-tops -- stamped "Dr. J" -- to share with fans; his brother Byron Gans, brought a pair of size 15 Nikes worn by teammate Moses Malone.

The brothers were hoping Erving would sign some memorabilia for their Camden, N.J., store, Shoe Kings.

Other Spectrum trivia: Michael Jordan scored 52 points there in 1988 with the visiting Chicago Bulls, the most by an opponent in the arena's history. It's also where Duke's Christian Laettner memorably hit a last-second shot against Kentucky in 1992 to send the Blue Devils to the NCAA finals.

Concerts included performances by Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Luciano Pavarotti, the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones. Bruce Springsteen was booed off the stage in 1973 when he opened for the band Chicago but later played to dozens of sold-out crowds.

It was also where the character of down-on-his luck boxer Rocky Balboa went toe-to-toe with fictional heavywight champion Apollo Creed in "Rocky," which won the Academy Award for best picture in 1976.

"The Spectrum will live forever!" Springsteen bellowed to the audience at his final show at the venue last year.

In 1996, Snider merged his company Spectacor, which owned the Flyers and Spectrum, with local cable giant Comcast Corp. Comcast-Spectacor became the owner of the Flyers, 76ers and minor-league Philadelphia Phantoms hockey team, as well as the Spectrum and Wells Fargo Center.

The same year, the Flyers and 76ers moved to the new facility. The Spectrum continued to be used for entertainment events while serving as home ice for the Phantoms, who won a Calder Cup there in 1998.

Its last event was a Pearl Jam concert on Oct. 31, 2009.

Comcast-Spectacor has been selling off pieces of the arena, from seats and bricks to freezable drink coasters made from Spectrum ice.

 

Spectrum's walls to start tumbling

November 23, 2010

 

Inquirer - Philadelphia, PA - November 23, 2010 

After nearly a half-century of basketball and hockey games and concerts by the top names in rock and pop, the beloved Spectrum will host one final show Tuesday - the tumbling of its walls.

After speeches at noon by Mayor Nutter and Spectrum officials, a four-ton wrecking ball will pound the facade of the South Philadelphia arena, beginning an exterior demolition expected to take about four months. The gutting of the interior got under way earlier this month.

The public will be able to watch the show - billed as the ceremonial "final blow" - from surrounding parking lots while downing $1 hot dogs and sodas and celebrity-watching. Sports giants Julius Erving of the Sixers and Bob Clarke and Bernie Parent of the Flyers are among those expected to attend.

"The parking lots will be open at 9 a.m. . . . We will have a block party with lots of interactive games for our fans," said Ike Richman, a spokesman for Spectrum owner Comcast-Spectacor. "Souvenirs will be on sale. Our team store will be open. . . . It's lunchtime, so come on down."

Those seeking a keepsake can order commemorative bricks - each on a wood base for $39.95, plus shipping and handling - from the 43-year-old arena.

In a one-day sale Nov. 6, fans emptied the arena of seats, furniture, and other collectibles, paying $25 each to haul away whatever they could carry in a single load.

The razing of the Spectrum will give rise to the first phase of Philly Live!, promoted as a sprawling retail and entertainment hub. According to Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider, the initial one-story structure will house "the world's biggest sports bar," with enough leasable space for four smaller bars and restaurants.

Richman called the Spectrum a sports lover's dream.

"We've had championships there," he said. "We've had lacrosse, roller derby. . . . We've had arena football. We've had professional wrestling, boxing, and concerts. You name it, we've had it all."

 

Wanna buy a brick? 39.95 per at the Spectrum

November 22, 2010

Inquirer - Philadelphia, PA - November 22, 2010

After nearly a half century of basketball and hockey games and concerts by the top names in rock and pop, the beloved Spectrum will host one final show Tuesday - the tumbling of its walls.

Following speeches at noon by Mayor Nutter and Spectrum officials, a four-ton wrecking ball will pound the facade of the South Philadelphia arena, beginning an exterior demolition expected to take about four months. The gutting of the interior got under way earlier this month.

The public will be able to watch the show - billed as the ceremonial "final blow" - from surrounding parking lots while downing $1 hot dogs and sodas and celebrity-watching. Sports giants Julius Erving of the Sixers and Bob Clarke and Bernie Parent of the Flyers are among those expected to attend.

"The parking lots will be open at 9 a.m. . . . We will have a block party with lots of interactive games for our fans," said Ike Richman, a spokesman for Spectrum owner Comcast-Spectacor. "Souvenirs will be on sale. Our team store will be open. . . . It's lunch time, so come on down."

Those seeking a keepsake can order commemorative bricks - each on a wood base for $39.95, plus shipping and handling - from the 43-year-old arena.

In a one-day sale Nov. 6, fans emptied the arena of seats, furniture, and other collectibles, paying $25 each to haul away whatever they could carry in a single load.

The razing of the Spectrum will give rise to the first phase of Philly Live!, promoted as a sprawling retail and entertainment hub. According to Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider, the initial one-story structure will house "the world's biggest sports bar," with enough leasable space for four smaller bars and restaurants.

Richman called the Spectrum a sports lover's dream.

"We've had championships there," he said. "We've had lacrosse, roller derby. . . . We've had arena football. We've had professional wrestling, boxing, and concerts. You name it, we've had it all."

 

One last chance for Spectrum memoralbilia

November 7, 2010

Inquirer - Philadelphia, PA - November 7, 2010

It was the hallowed home of the Sixers and the Flyers.

It was a shrine for the shrieking fans of the Grateful Dead, not to mention nearly every other top musical act of the last 40 years.

And soon it will be gone.

The Spectrum, South Philadelphia's storied sports and entertainment venue, which opened in 1967, will be demolished this month. But from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, the public was to be let in to claim one last memory.

In an "If You Can Carry It, You Can Keep It" free-for-all, folding chairs, bar stools, used TVs, office furniture, leather couches, computer equipment, coffee and bar tables, lamps, and other collectibles were to be arrayed on the arena's floor.

For $25 admission, you could take whatever you can carry in one load, said Ike Richman, a spokesman for Spectrum owner Comcast-Spectacor. He recommended that people come in teams of two or more to cart away larger items. Anyone who wanted to return for a second load will have to pay another entrance fee.

Standing on the Spectrum's cement floor Friday, Richman, who has worked there for more than 20 years, lapsed into sentimentality. He looked up to the stands, from which most of the seats have already been removed, and said: "We're selling everything we can because the Spectrum meant so much to so many people."

The estimated 2,000 folding chairs, once used as concert seating on the floor, are expected to be the hottest items.

"This is what everybody is looking for - folding chairs," said Richman. "There's a limit on those. You can only take up to four."

Fans of the Grateful Dead, which performed at the Spectrum 53 times - more often than any other group - will no doubt covet the chairs. But, Richman said, "every group out there, with the exception of the Beatles, played the Spectrum."

On Monday, the arena, with a capacity of 17,000-plus, will be surrounded with protective fencing in preparation for demolition.

The demolition will begin inside the arena and is expected to be completed by the end of the month. The Spectrum is to replaced by a large entertainment complex.

Richman recalled the arena's rich sports history, including NBA and NHL championship seasons.

"The greatest basketball players of all time - Dr. J., Wilt Chamberlain, Charles Barkley - played in the Spectrum," Richman said. "And the greatest hockey players - Bob Clarke, Bernie Parent. This building meant so much to so many people."

On Friday, Bob Kelly, who played for the Flyers from 1970 to 1980, brought his 10-year-old daughter, Lindsay, to the Spectrum. There, he and fellow Broad Street Bullies won the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975.

"I am glad to see the seats flying out of here," said Kelly. "I came here in 1970 and the building was up for only three years. It was a shrine. It was a mecca. . . . There are a lot of memories here."

 

Sixers and Spectrum Memories
March 13, 2
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Daily News - Philadelphia, PA - March 13, 2009

Doctor J leads parade of memories tonight at Spectrum

IT'S FUNNY, the things we remember sometimes.

For many fans of Julius Erving, it's not just the gravity-defying dunks that left an indelible impression. It was the hair, that magnificent Afro that rose from Doctor J's skull like a mushroom cloud after a nuclear detonation.

Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Byron Scott is now the head coach of the New Orleans Hornets and before a recent game against the 76ers at the Wachovia Center he recalled Erving's hair-raising elevations.

"What impressed me is that Afro going up, higher and higher, until it was almost even with the rim," Scott said, still incredulous after all these years. "Doctor J would dunk on us, like he dunked on everybody, and then the public-address announcer at the Spectrum [the late, great Dave Zinkoff] would say, 'Julius Errrrrrrrving.' I mean, he'd really draw it out. The crowd would go crazy."

It's a fairly safe bet that nostalgia will be as thick as that vintage Afro, and that the man himself, Julius Winfield Erving II, will again rock the house when he and other members of the Sixers' 1982-83 NBA championship team are introduced before tonight's game between the current Sixers and Chicago Bulls in what is now known as the Wachovia Spectrum.

The Sixers now play in the Wachovia Center, and have since the 1996-97 season. Their new home - if you can call a nearly 13-year-old building "new" - is located across the parking lot from the old Spectrum, which was called "America's Showplace" when it opened in 1967. But the passage of time can render even showplaces obsolete, particularly if they don't come equipped with luxury boxes and other revenue-generating vehicles so necessary to driving the megabucks commerce of 21st-century professional sports.

So the once-gleaming edifice of another era will come down sometime this year, to make way for an entertainment and retail complex that will provide freer-flowing revenue streams to Comcast-Spectacor than were available through the Spectrum's more recent use as a site for games involving the minor league Phantoms and Kixx. Some would call that progress. But in this city, so obsessed with all things historical, from Benjamin Franklin's print shop to the Liberty Bell, the razing of the Spectrum is like the conversion of, say, Valley Forge National Park into golf courses and condominiums.

Shouldn't there be at least some sort of movement organized to preserve the hallowed hall where Christian Laettner hit that turnaround jumper on March 28, 1992, to give Duke a 104-103 overtime victory over Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, arguably the greatest college basketball game ever played? Where the incomparable Wilt Chamberlain played his final Sixers season in his hometown? And where Julius Erving routinely made the impossible seem possible?

In this town, two of the more miraculous plays authored by Erving are the "rock-the-baby" dunk he threw down over the Lakers' Michael Cooper in 1983 and the behind-the-backboard scoop shot he kissed off the glass and through the net in the 1980 NBA Finals.

Magic Johnson, then a Lakers rookie, has seen and done it all on a basketball court, but he maintains that Erving's soar-with-the-eagles scoop is No. 1 on his all-time list of incredible plays.

"Here I was, trying to win a championship, and my mouth just dropped open," Johnson said years later. "I thought, 'What should we do? Should we take the ball out, or should we give him the ball back and ask him to do it again?' It's still the greatest move I've ever seen in a basketball game, the all-time greatest."

There were Ervingesque maneuvers nearly as spectacular, lost in the annals of time, or at least buried deeper in ESPN's tape vault. But those who were there, eyewitnesses to greatness, can never forget.

"They don't talk about it as much, but how about the dunk Doc had on Bobby Gross in Portland?" said Marc Iavaroni, the rookie starting power forward for the Sixers' 1982-83 championship team. "Bobby went up, but Doc just kept going higher and higher and jammed it in.

"Once, in San Diego Arena, Doc dunked on Bill Walton by literally putting his arm on top of Bill. As Bill tried to jump, Doc leveraged him down and dunked on his head."

Of all the returning 1982-83 players the Sixers have made available to the media in recent weeks, the one who has yet to make his feelings known concerning the imminent demise of the Spectrum is Erving. Makes sense; true legends do not bother with preliminaries. The word is that Doctor J, now 59, took off from Florida last night - by jet plane, not from the free-throw line - and will be introduced tonight at the Spectrum to the sort of hero's welcome that should be reserved for classic American originals.

 

Spectrum press-box fixture Abel was always willing

March 13, 2009

Daily News - Philadelphia, PA - March 13, 2009

THERE IS NO statue cast in Charlie Abel's image, but the man whose bronzed likeness sits on the Spectrum steps knows who is the arena's true soul.

Julius Erving said so himself.

"If anybody here should be looked up to, it's you," he told Charlie Abel. "You're always here, doing your job."

"Press Box" Abel - so named because, as the press-box guard, that's how he answered the phone there; no comma, no pause - will be among the Sixers' esteemed guests at tonight's farewell to the Wachovia Spectrum. And rightly so.

"One of my favorite things about the Spectrum was talking to our wonderful staff," said Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider. "Charlie represents all of the many special people who gave so tirelessly of their time to make the Spectrum such a terrific place. It'll be great to see him and many of our other long-tenured staff back in the Spectrum on Friday."

Abel, 75, helped open the venue on Sept. 30, 1967, working among the masses as a general security guard for the Quaker City Jazz Festival. The Spectrum is scheduled for demolition after a concert on the same date this year to make way for a hotel, part of the planned Philly Live! complex.

Abel heard about the Spectrum's imminent demise on television in his Yeadon home.

"I thought I'd go stand in front of the wrecking ball," Abel said.

He never worked in the Wachovia Center. He retired from the Spectrum once it became second fiddle to that shiny new edifice in 1996. Luxury boxes and plush seating and a cavernous press box - that just wasn't him.

A cabinetmaker from South Philly, trained in his trade at Bok Vocational at 8th and Mifflin, Abel saw his time at the Spectrum as a privilege. His cabinet company moved south. He wouldn't. He became a firefighter - and remained a guard.

He had moved up in the Spectrum world.

Abel's steady hand and calm demeanor led tennis maven Marilyn Fernberger to request that he work the press box at the Philadelphia Indoor men's tennis tournament at the Spectrum.

"She liked the way I handled high-strung tennis players . . . and reporters," Abel said.

Everyone, he figured, deserved the same treatment. It was his policy.

"From Ed Snider on down, even to the cleaners, I knew 'em all," Abel said.

And he saw it all. And he marveled.

* The record 53 times the Grateful Dead played the arena: "Can't believe how loyal those fans are. No matter how many times [the band would] come, you'd see the same people down there watching them."

* The wondrous absurdity of professional wresting: "To see the wrestlers in the ring, and then to see them in the dressing room; they were all in the same dressing room."

* The gaudy crowds on fight nights: "They'd come dressed in their finery, and eat peanuts. It was a peanut crowd."

* The Flyers' Game 6 comeback win over the Oilers in 1987: "Never saw a hockey game live 'til I started working there. Great sport. Live."

* And, of course, the night a Lakers rookie named Magic Johnson moved from point guard to center in place of injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, had seven assists and three steals in the clinching Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals: "It was great to see. The crowd was Sixers fans, but Magic took them over, believe me. What he did that day - I couldn't believe it."

He shared such unbelievable moments with the cynics: the press. He guffawed at Inquirer scribe Bob Ford's famous impression of Charles Barkley. Ford, then the Sixers beat writer and now a columnist for the paper, recalls that Abel was always willing to help.

One of Ford's first assignments at the Spectrum involved a Flyers alumni game against a celebrity team. Abel saw that Ford was pounding away on a tight deadline and asked if he could lend a hand. Anything. Really.

Ford replied, yes, he could use a quote from the celebrity team's coach.

"Five minutes later, Charles had the guy standing next to me," Ford said. The coach was a bit tipsy, and stalled when Ford asked him for a comment. "He turned and looked at Charles, and Charles just nodded seriously at him."

Press Box Abel, indeed.

Abel's position helped his family share some of the arena's greatest moments. His sons, Darren and Howard, saw the games, sure, but they saw the circus, ice shows and concerts, too. Darren even worked there in college, as a vendor, and afterward, a guard.

Darren died 8 years ago. So, yes, the Spectrum is extra special to Charlie Abel.

"It was home to me. I liked the closeness. You felt good about the place," Abel said. "If it comes across like I loved the place, well, I did."

Which is kind of what tonight is all about.

 

'Chocolate Thunder' Never Lost Taste For The Spectrum

March 13, 2009

Bulletin - Philadelphia, PA - March 13, 2009

Two decades later, Darryl Dawkins can still hear the noise.

It’s almost as if he is still throwing down dunks at the Spectrum and Sixers fans are going bizerk with each and every rim-rattling slam.

The truth is, it’s been 27 years since Dawkins played for the Sixers, 20 years since he played in the NBA and 13 years since the Spectrum housed an NBA game of any kind.

But some things in life, like the atmosphere in that old, cozy arena, don’t get forgotten over time.

“(The energy) would be right in your pocket,” Dawkins, now 52, said in a recent conference call.  “It would be so loud in there that you would be running back down the floor, giving everybody (in the crowd) a high-five.  It would be off the charts right there in the Spectrum.  The floor would vibrate — that’s what it would feel like.”

As much as anyone who played at the Spectrum, Dawkins fed off the energy of the fans.  His game was built on intimidation and energy, and that’s exactly what the South Philly venue offered the Sixers 41 days a year.

“My best memory was when they started cheering my name — Dawkins! Dawkins! Dawkins!” he recalled.  “I was like, ‘I’ve arrived.  I’m big time now.  Big Daddy’s on the beach.’”

The 6-foot-11 center was the Sixers’ first-round draft pick in 1975 out of Maynard Evans High School in Orlando.  He was one of the first players to ever be drafted straight out of high school and averaged just 2.4 points as a rookie in 1975-76.

However, despite the slow start to his professional career, it didn’t take long for the 18-year-old to fall in love with his new home.

“Being a young guy, a country kid from Florida, and coming to Philadelphia and seeing the fans all screaming, it was mind-blowing and special when they started cheering for me,” Dawkins said.  “I really did enjoy that.”

In his best statistical season with the Sixers, Dawkins averaged 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 1979-80.  He helped the team reach the NBA finals that season but was traded to New Jersey two years later and missed out on the Sixers’ championship party in 1983.

Those were the glory days at the Spectrum, where the Sixers played from 1967 to 1996 before moving across the street to the Wachovia Center.

But while their new home is impressive, their only home was, well, home.

“When I walked in, I always tried to feed off the energy,” Dawkins said.  “World B. Free always told me, ‘When you go in there, you either do it big or you don’t do it.’”

And if anyone went big, it was Dawkins.  The self-appointed “Chocolate Thunder” was known for his ferocious slams, broken backboards and even naming each of his dunks.

Perhaps the Sixers will pay homage to Dawkins when they host the Bulls in the last ever game at the Spectrum on Friday night.  Maybe Andre Iguodala will throw down a “Spine-Chiller Supreme” or Sam Dalembert will introduce Tyrus Thomas to the “In Your Face Disgrace.”

Better yet, if Marreese Speights breaks a backboard on Friday night, he can honor Dawkins by borrowing the name he used for his backboard-shattering dunk in 1979: The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam.

Now that would be a fitting tribute to the final game at the Spectrum.

“There were some great people down there,” said Dawkins, who recalled playing 1-on-1 with Free every day before practice.  “To see it come down after being there so long, it’s hard to see.  You can’t stand in the way of technology, but it’s hard to see.”

Walk Down Memory Lane


The Web site RememberTheSpectrum.com offers an assortment of memories about the Spectrum, from former Sixers players and coaches to Sixers fans and even celebrities.

“It was a great place to play,” said Maurice Cheeks, who played for the Sixers from 1978-89 and coached the team from 2005-08.  “Those were my years. I still think about the Spectrum when I drive to the Wachovia Center.  It was a great place to play and I’m really, really going to miss it.

“There was an energy there, a passion that came from the fans and spilled over into how the players played.  That was what that building was all about, almost like it had a pulse itself.”

Love for the Spectrum is clearly universal, as Charles Barkley — who couldn’t be more different than Cheeks as a person or a player — also had wonderful things to say about his first NBA arena.

“I have great memories of that place, because I played my first game there in ’84,” said Barkley, who began his Hall of Fame career with the Sixers from 1984-92.  “Probably the night they retired my jersey was the most special night for me.  It was awesome.  As a player, there is no single moment better than when an organization retires your jersey.”

Former NBA coach Paul Westhead remembers the Spectrum primarily for the 1980 NBA finals, when his Lakers clinched the championship there.  But the Philadelphia native also coached at the Spectrum with La Salle from 1970-79 and admitted that he’ll never forget those Big 5 battles at Broad and Pattison.

“It was a big-time arena, but there was a real mystique to it,” Westhead said.  “The Spectrum pretty much covered it all when you think of basketball and big games.  I hate to see it go, but I’ll never forget it.”

Courier Post - Cherry Hill, NJ - March 13, 2009

Memories will outlive Spectrum

The Spectrum was old before its time.

It was too small, and it wasn't long before modern arenas with luxury suites and fancy scoreboards made the building obsolete.

But the memories live on for the former 76ers who played there, as well as their fans. They will get their final chance to bid adieu to the building tonight, when the Sixers host Chicago.

The Spectrum opened in 1967, and it always seemed to have a star-crossed relationship with the Sixers, unlike the building's other main occupant, the Flyers, or the memorable NCAA tournament games played there.

The championship season of 1982-83 is perhaps the greatest Sixers memory at the Spectrum. There also was Darryl Dawkins shattering the backboard and Julius Erving's array of high-flying dunks.

But as Pat Williams, the Sixers' general manager from 1974 to 1986, put it, "It wasn't all peaches and cream there. The Spectrum was antiquated shortly after it opened, and selling pro basketball in Philadelphia was never easy."

There was the 9-73 season in 1972-73, still the worst record in NBA history; the nearly empty building for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in 1981; and the final five playoff-less seasons before the Sixers moved to the Wachovia Center in 1996.

The Spectrum is scheduled to be demolished this year, and be replaced by a retail and entertainment complex called Philly Live!

Williams and the Sixers who played there will be sad to see it go.

"I went to a Rick James concert down there," Dawkins said. "I remember working with (longtime statistician) Harvey Pollack and (former Sixer) World B. Free. We played 1-on-1 every day, before and after practice. There were some great people down there.

"To see it come down, it's hard. You can't stand in the way of technology."

Dawkins, of course, is responsible for many of the memories -- both good and bad. There was the night in 1977, during Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers, when he and Maurice Lucas got into a fight. Dawkins' brothers came down from the stands to help. They were stopped before getting to Lucas.

Dawkins was ejected, and he was fuming in the locker room because his teammates didn't back him up.

"I caused some major-league destruction," Dawkins said. "A toilet came off the wall. Water was flowing everywhere. Guys were coming into the locker room, and they had their gator shoes floating around. I was so mad. Oh yeah, I'm part of that destruction down there.

"(Shattering the) backboards? Accidents happen. You just have to see if they can happen again. I had the ability to do that."

Hold your ears

Mostly, the Spectrum was known for noise. The building, which seems like it can fit inside the Wachovia Center, was so small that it felt like the fans were right on top of the court.

"You could feel the floor vibrate," Dawkins said. "It would get so loud in there, you'd turn around and you're just running down the floor giving everybody high-fives."

Added Williams: "When it was packed, you would get eaten up by the sound. When the team was really good, no sporting arena was more heart-pounding, noisy, intense or intimidating."

Dr. J

Erving was probably the most revered Sixer in the Spectrum. He played there from 1976 until his retirement in 1987.

The memories began his very first night.

Williams had spent the final weeks before the start of the 1976-77 season frantically trying to work out a deal with the former New York Nets, who were looking to sell Erving's rights to the highest bidder.

Finally, the night before the season began, the deal was consummated. Erving had missed all of training camp, and nobody knew if he would play or not.

At the last minute, Erving decided to play. He was introduced to the crowd, which stood and cheered. Then season-ticket holder Steve Solms ran out to center court and presented Erving with a doctor's bag.

"I remember that night vividly," Williams said. "The doctor was finally in the house."

Wilt Chamberlain played for the Sixers during their first season in the Spectrum, and he still holds the team scoring record with 68 points in a game. Charles Barkley, Moses Malone, Cheeks and Bobby Jones were some of the other great Sixers who played there.

Bad memories, too

But there were many forgettable players and forgettable seasons, too.

Sixers president and general manager Ed Stefanski grew up in Philadelphia. He was a teenager when the Spectrum opened, with the Sixers trying to defend their championship.

He attended a playoff game that first season against the Celtics, with the rivalry between Chamberlain and Celtics legend Bill Russell as fierce as ever.

"Those games, you just knew that you needed to win," Stefanski said. "They were so intense. But there was no question that the Spectrum became Julius' building. Wilt was only there one year.

"Once Erving left the building for good, it seemed that the magical moments left with him."

That's why no one lamented the move across the parking lot in 1996.

The team was horrible, and the building was about half-filled.

"You move on," Stefanski said. "I haven't been in the Spectrum in years. And people who say they're sad about the Spectrum closing probably haven't been there in years, either.

"I don't think any of them will trade it for the Wachovia Center."

Maybe for one final farewell, they will.

 

Inquirer - Philadelphia, PA - March 13, 2009

A list of Spectrum moments to remember

With the 76ers playing the final big-league sporting event at the Wachovia Spectrum tonight, there's a lot to remember about the old South Philadelphia arena. But there's probably just as much we've forgotten about the place.

Here are five Spectrum facts that might have been withdrawn from your memory banks:

The first roof-raiser 1

Everybody remembers that the Spectrum's roof blew off on March 1, 1968. People forget it happened two weeks earlier, too.

On Feb. 17, as 11,000 watched an Ice Capades show, Hal Freeman, the Spectrum's first president, sat in his basement office. Suddenly, a nephew, who had been watching the show, appeared at his door.

"Uncle Hal," he told Freeman, who died in 1998, "I think you've got a problem. The roof is blowing off."

High winds had dislodged a 50-by-150-foot chunk of the four-month-old arena's roof. Debris injured three people entering the building.

 "It sounded just like a subway train roaring past you," Steve Greenberg, a Spectrum public-relations assistant, said in 1988. "There was this great ripping sound. I looked up and saw blue sky where the roof should have been. There was an orchestra on hand for the show, and it must have had a comedian for a director, because they started playing, 'Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder.' "

The structural damage was repaired quickly, but not before Philadelphia became the national butt of jokes.

Then, two weeks later, the roof blew off again.

This time Mayor James H.J. Tate, whose administration had been criticized for the sweetheart deal it awarded developer Jerry Wolman, shut down the building.

The 76ers, NBA champs a year earlier, had to finish their season at the Palestra and Convention Hall. They did not repeat.

The first-year Flyers, meanwhile, clinched the Western Division title while playing their remaining games on the road in New York, Toronto and Quebec City. Their celebration consisted of a late-night party in Ed Snider's room at a Quebec City hotel.

 "Did we have to clinch now?" complained goalie Doug Favell, who was summoned to the event only after second-place Los Angeles was eliminated in a West Coast game. "I just took three sleeping pills, and The Slime People is on the late movie."

After the Red Army

2

The Flyers-Soviet Red Army game at the Spectrum on Jan. 11, 1976, was one of the building's most memorable. That chaotic and historic Flyers' victory would overshadow the NHL All-Star Game, which took place there just nine days later.

As part of the Bicentennial celebration, the arena hosted that year's NHL and NBA All-Star Games (baseball's was played at the Vet). The only previous all-star game played in the building had been the 1970 NBA game.

A crowd of 16,436 saw the Campbell Conference stars beat the Wales, 7-5.

Perhaps the only noteworthy thing about the game was its rosters, which illustrates the depth of change in the NHL since then.

Thirty-nine of the 40 players in that '76 game were Canadian-born. The only exception was Borje Salming, Toronto's Swedish-born defenseman.

Compare that with the international makeup of this year's all-star game. In 2009, 25 of the 49 eligible players were born outside Canada, the majority in Sweden, Russia and the Czech Republic.

The name game

3

People forget how innovative an arena name the Spectrum was. The era's sports facilities tended to have names like Convention Hall or the War Memorial Arena.

It came out of the head of the arena's VP, Lou Scheinfeld. While Freeman favored Keystone Arena, Scheinfeld sought something livelier.

"We didn't want it named for some dead general," he said.

Seeking inspiration, he and designer Bill Becker walked through the construction site. After tossing around adjectives like "spectacular," "splendid" and "special," Scheinfeld said, "How about Spectrum?"

"I looked up the meaning," he said, "and it said, 'All things colorful under the sun.' Perfect. And you had 'SP' for sports and South Philadelphia. 'E' for entertainment. 'C' for the circus and concerts. 'T' for theatrical. 'R' for recreation and relaxation, and 'UM' was a suffix for auditorium and stadium."

Still Freeman held out for Keystone. When it came time to present their ideas to developer Wolman and his people, Scheinfeld brought along a "crappy" sign from a Keystone State Official Automotive Inspection Station. He also pointed out that Philly had at least 60 businesses with "Keystone" in their names, everything from a tonsorial parlor to a pickle factory.

Wolman's team voted, 9-1, in favor of "Spectrum." "Freeman was the only holdout," Scheinfeld said.

When Freeman demanded a broader vote, other executives were brought in.

"This time it was 30-1," Scheinfeld said. "That name started something. Before you knew it, you had arenas with names like the Forum and the Omni."

Scheinfeld hopes to keep the name alive and is lobbying developers of the Spectrum site to include it in the new project planned there.

The bizarre box score

4

Hard to believe this one's been largely forgotten. The box score from a March 23, 1979, Nets-Sixers game at the Spectrum shows that Eric Money, Ralph Simpson and Harvey Catchings played for both teams.

Here's how it happened:

The Sixers had won a foul-filled, double-overtime game with the Nets on Nov. 8, 1978. But because referee Richie Powers had called three technicals on Nets coach Kevin Loughery and star Bernard King - the NBA limit was two - New Jersey protested.

"I was thinking, 'That's funny. I thought you could only get two technicals'," recalled Catchings, retired now in Chicago.

NBA commissioner Larry O'Brien upheld the protest, ordering that everything from 5:50 left in the fourth quarter (when the technicals were called) be expunged and the game replayed from that point.

The Nets were back in Philly on March 23 and the suspended game was to be completed before the regularly scheduled contest.

One problem: On Feb. 7, the 76ers had traded Catchings and Simpson to the Nets for Skinner and Money.

After much deliberation, league officials decided the traded players could compete for their new teams. While Skinner never got in, you'll find Simpson and Money on both sides of the box from Philadelphia's 123-117 triumph and Catchings just on the Nets' side because he was scoreless for the Sixers and played only during the time the statistics were expunged.

Another oddity of that game: When Loughery was ejected in February, his assistant took over. Then in the March replay, when the Nets were short on big men, that same assistant, a 6-9 ex-NBA center, was activated.

His name?

Phil Jackson.

What a start

5

For all the significant sporting events that took place there, it's hard to imagine the Spectrum ever had a streak like the three-day run of events at its official opening.

After the first concert (Quaker City Jazz Festival) and the first ice show (Holiday on Ice), things moved to another level.

On Oct. 17, 1968, Philadelphia's Joe Frazier, an Olympic gold medalist and future heavyweight champ who had just TKO'd George Chuvalo, knocked out Tony Doyle in the second round.

On Oct. 18, the day the building was officially dedicated, the NBA champion 76ers, with reigning MVP Wilt Chamberlain, opened their season by thumping Jerry West's L.A. Lakers, 103-87.

On. Oct. 19, the brand-new Flyers played their first home game and got their first shutout (Favell), beating the Pittsburgh Penguins, 1-0, before a crowd of 7,812.

 

Sun Times - Chicago, IL - March 13, 2009

Closing the Spectrum Opens A Flood of Memories

They're putting up the baskets at the Spectrum one more time tonight, when the Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers play the last basketball game before the 42-year-old arena is demolished.

Some memories of the building -- which last hosted a Sixers game in 1996 before the team moved to the Wachovia Center -- are not easily swept away.

''I was playing with the Knicks at the time, and we were coming on as a team,'' Bulls assistant coach Pete Myers said of a 1989 playoff series. ''We swept [the Sixers] in the first round, so we took the brooms that were behind the basket and we actually went up and down the floor with the brooms and swept the floor. Then we got back the next day in New York, and they had us on the front page.

''It went all downhill from there. Granted, we did play [the Bulls] in the next round and lost. It was kind of a good thing turned bad.''

Flyers owner Ed Snider calls the Spectrum his ''baby.'' Snider needed to build it to get an NHL franchise in Philadelphia. It went up in 11 months and opened in 1967.

Only one championship was celebrated in the arena. The Flyers clinched the 1974 Stanley Cup with a 1-0 victory over Boston.

''We won two Stanley Cups and went to four finals,'' former Flyer Bob Kelly said on rememberthespectrum.com. ''We beat the Russians there and had a 35-game unbeaten streak. It was a big part of so many of our lives because a lot of us played there for a lot of years.''

Charles Barkley, whose No.34 jersey was retired to the Spectrum rafters, played his first game there in 1984 with teammates Julius Erving and Moses Malone.

''The locker room was so small ... if I moved too quickly, Moses' [expletive] would hit me on the cheekbone,'' Barkley is quoted on the Web site. ''I had to really be careful when I was doing interviews because if you turned your head, Doc's cheek was right here and Moses' cheek was right here.''

Duke's Christian Laettner hit his last-second game-winner off a 75-foot inbounds pass from Grant Hill to beat Kentucky at the Spectrum. The 104-103 overtime decision in the 1992 NCAA East Regional is considered one of the best college games ever.

Bulls forward John Salmons, a Philadelphia native, is looking forward to being part of the farewell game.

''It's going to be fun,'' he said. ''The most famous memories are always going to be the Dr. J dunks. Growing up, I used to watch Barkley all the time. [He] was my favorite player for a long time, he and Hersey Hawkins.''

Bulls assistant Bernie Bickerstaff recalls Lloyd Free refusing to pass to a wide-open Erving in a key playoff game during Washington's run to the 1978 NBA title. Fellow assistant Del Harris remembers the Philly fans' fervor.

''They were always more intense against their own,'' Harris said with a chuckle.

For Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro, it's the end of an era.

''All the old buildings -- from the L.A. Forum to the Boston Garden to the Chicago Stadium, Madison Square Garden and the Spectrum -- they just had an atmosphere that was electric,'' Del Negro said. ''The [cigarette] smoke up there. The history of those buildings is just phenomenal. It will be a great atmosphere.''


Tribune - Chicago, IL - March 13, 2009

Last stand coming for Philadelphia's Spectrum

Chicago Bulls grateful to play final basketball game at Spectrum against Philadelphia 76ers

Bulls broadcaster Neil Funk remembers the crowd noise, so loud it would pierce his headphones as he broadcast memorable game after memorable game.

Vinny Del Negro remembers the smoke hanging in the rafters — not the manufactured kind that lingers after pregame indoor fireworks these days, but the real stuff from cigarette after cigarette.

Del Harris remembers Eugene "Goo" Kennedy shutting down Julius "Dr. J" Erving in Game 5 of the 1977 Eastern Conference finals.

Bernie Bickerstaff remembers World B. Free missing a wide-open Dr. J in a crucial moment from the 1978 Eastern finals as the Washington Bullets improbably marched to the NBA title.

Pete Myers remembers taking a mop from behind the basket stanchion and sweeping the floor after his Knicks shockingly swept the 76ers out of the 1989 playoffs.

And John Salmons, a native who was 4 at the time, remembers Dr. J's thunderous "rock the baby" dunk over Michael Cooper in the 1983 NBA Finals that's still a highlight-show staple.

The Bulls, like anybody associated with the league, have their fill of Spectrum memories and get the honor of playing the final NBA game there Friday night. The 76ers moved with the NHL's Flyers across a parking lot to the Wachovia Center 13 years ago, and the Spectrum will be torn down later this year.

But not before Funk, Salmons and the rest of the Bulls get to visit some ghosts one last time.

"I never thought I would set foot in there again," said Funk, who began his pro broadcasting career there in 1976 and also called the Sixers' 1983 NBA championship. "I'm a little surprised they didn't schedule Boston to play the last NBA game there because that was one of the great rivalries in sports for 20 years.

"But one thing about Philly is they have a sense of history. Here's this building, and we're going to get rid of it. But there are so many memories, let's play one more game."

Opened in 1967, the Spectrum hosted six Stanley Cup finals and four NBA Finals. In 1976 both the NHL and NBA All-Star Games were played there, as was the NCAA Final Four.

With the cookie-cutter nature of most modern arenas, Friday will be a chance to remember old characters like George McGinnis and Darryl Dawkins and play in a building with character.

"From Madison Square Garden to the L.A. Forum to the Boston Garden to the Spectrum to the old (Chicago) Stadium, all those old buildings had an atmosphere that was electric," Del Negro said. "It's going to be fun."

Too many great moments and too many great players left their mark on the Spectrum to be captured by one night. Funk is just happy for the opportunity to try.

"When I walk in there," Funk said, "I know a lot of memories are going to come flooding back."

 

Cheeks to miss Sixers' celebration

March 13, 2009

Inquirer - Philadelphia, PA - March 13, 2009

Maurice Cheeks is not scheduled to be at the Wachovia Spectrum tonight.

He will not stand with Julius Erving, Bobby Jones and Moses Malone, his teammates on the 76ers' 1982-83 NBA championship team, for the final game played at the arena where they raised a banner.

He will not watch this mid-March version of the Sixers, the ones he coached until being fired in December, play the Chicago Bulls.

Although Cheeks remains under contract with the Sixers through next season, he declined an invitation to celebrate what was once his arena.

The organization formally invited alumni of its two championship teams, from 1966-67 and 1982-83, six weeks ago. The Sixers said they did not have an exact date for Cheeks' decision.

Despite repeated attempts, he could not be reached for comment.

Sixers coach Tony DiLeo said he left Cheeks a message "a long time ago" and still hadn't heard back.

"Whenever he's ready, I'm sure he'll get back to me," DiLeo said.

When general manager Ed Stefanski fired Cheeks, he mentioned the possibility of discussing with Cheeks, when the time was right, future opportunities with the team.

"Mo took some time off, and we've talked a couple of times," Stefanski said. "Right now, he feels the timing would be best to wait a little bit, but he's considering those things."

Stefanski declined to comment on what role Cheeks might fill.

"We did invite every member of both of our championship teams to help us celebrate this special night at the Spectrum," Sixers spokesman Mike Preston said in an e-mail. "While he informed us that he will unfortunately not be able to attend this game on Friday night, we will always consider Mo to be a cherished member of the Sixers family and we continue to hold him in the highest regard, both on the court and off."

In the weeks leading to tonight's game, the Sixers ran an advertising campaign that paired a current Sixer with his throwback teammate: Samuel Dalembert with Malone, Andre Iguodala with Erving, Thaddeus Young with Charles Barkley, Andre Miller with Cheeks.

While each advertisement appeared to imply that each player would be present tonight, Barkley and Andrew Toney also are not scheduled to attend. The Sixers said the campaign was "designed to celebrate blending of past and present."

The current Sixers, the ones Cheeks coached to a 9-14 record until his Dec. 13 firing, said they had kept in touch and understood Cheeks' decision.

"I've spoken with him several times since it happened," Young said of Cheeks' firing. "We'll text back and forth, and I'll take his input, and I'll give him a little bit of mine. He's still been a coach to me."

Did Young ask Cheeks about tonight? "I did not," Young said. "I don't want to get into that. That's his decision."

"We text back and forth once or twice to check up on each other," Iguodala said. "It's kind of a situation, kind of like, it would be good to be here, but the situation that happened, maybe not a good idea. It's hard to say. So I'm pretty sure he's just relaxing and enjoying his wine right about now."

Scheduled Sixers. Members of the championship teams scheduled to attend are Malone, Erving, Jones, Earl Cureton, Wali Jones, Clemon Johnson, Marc Iavaroni and Reggie Johnson. The team said a limited number of tickets remained.

 

Spectrum: Saying goodbye

March 13, 2009

Daily News - Philadelphia, PA - March 13, 2009

The Sixers play their final game tonight in the Wachovia Spectrum, their home in the 1982-83 NBA championship season. The Sixers played in the Spectrum from 1967 to '96. Expect tonight to be one of nostaglia, highlighted by a halftime ceremony for the title team, including Julius Erving.

1967-68 TEAM ATTENDEE: Wali Jones

1982-83 TEAM ATTENDEES: Earl Cureton, Franklin Edwards, Julius Erving, Marc Iavaroni, Clemon Johnson, Reggie Johnson, Bobby Jones, Moses Malone

BY THE NUMBERS:

Seasons at Spectrum: 29

Games: 1,240

Wins: 804

Losses: 436

Winning pct.: 64.8

Points scored: 136,548

Opponents' points: 131,729

Attendance: 15,120,536

THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON:

n 1982-83, the Sixers were dominant at the Spectrum. Their numbers:

Regular-season record: 65-17

Playoff record: 12-1

Spectrum regular-season record: 35-6

Spectrum playoff record: 7-0

COMCAST SPORTSNET ON THE SCENE: "Daily News Live" will have interviews from the Spectrum with Bobby Jones, Doctor J, Earl Cureton and Wali Jones, among others. "DNL" is on Comcast SportsNet weeknights from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and is hosted by Michael Barkann. Also on CSN, "Sportsnite" at 6:30 and "Postgame Live" after the game will air from the Spectrum.

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