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The Sixers are proposing building a new stadium in Center City. Photo Credit: 76Place.
The Sixers are proposing building a new stadium in Center City. Photo Credit: 76Place.

Philadelphia 76ers want to move to Center City, but how do people feel about it?

The team’s lease with the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia expires in 2031.

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The Philadelphia 76ers have announced the creation of 76 Devcorp, a new development company that will be responsible for developing the future home of the basketball team. 

With the announcement, the team’s managers also revealed plans to build a new $1.3 billion sports and entertainment arena in Center City.

The brand-new arena would be called 76 Place at Market East, and be located on a part of the Fashion District at 10th & Market Streets, effectively moving the team from South Philadelphia. 

The Sixers have been playing at its current location, the Wells Fargo Center, since 1996, and its lease is set to expire in 2031.

“Considering most arenas only remain in service for 30-40 years, the current location is not conducive to our vision of building a championship-level franchise for decades to come,” the organizers said. 

Part of the reason the Center City location was selected was ​​due to it being “the most transit-rich location in all of Philadelphia.”

Upon the announcement, SEPTA released a statement saying it is “looking forward to having further discussions about the central role that public transportation will have in getting people to-and-from games and other events.” 

All in all, a move from South Philadelphia to Center City would be a huge one. As a result, Philadelphians from all walks of life have shared reactions to this potential reality — sparking mixed emotions. 

For some politicians, the belief is that building a new arena in Center City would bring a lot of commerce and revitalize the area. 

“I’m excited about the positive economic impact that a new arena would have on our city,” wrote Mayor Jim Kenney in a tweet. 

Councilmember Mark Squilla shared in the excitement, stating: “If approved, this site could be a major economic boost to the East Market Corridor.”

Some businesses also see the potential positive nature of the matter.

BLT Architects, a leading architectural firm in the Philadelphia area, shared its reaction, stating being “excited by the renderings.”

“The building will capture the energy and vibrancy of our city,” said Michael Prifti, FAIA, principal of BLT Architects. 

“If approved, we will be excited to follow along and observe all the wonderful architectural additions that 76 Place will bring,” he added. 

The reaction hasn’t been all positive, however, as questions remain. 

Paul Levy, president of the Center City District, issued a statement praising the economic development and job creation this could have. 

However, he brought in potential concerns, as well.

“While there will surely be many amenities within the arena, this can also prompt new demand for nearby restaurants, retail and hotels, expanding on the vitality created by the Pennsylvania Convention Center,” said Levy. “Clearly there are many issues to be worked out with neighbors and to develop plans for crowd management, but they have the benefit of nearly a decade to accomplish those important tasks."

Some are all in on the idea of the move, while others are on the fence until learning more information. However, there are also those who are wholeheartedly against the idea. 

Among those who strongly oppose the new arena being built in the location are the Chinatown community. 

Asian Americans United, a coalition of Chinatown community members and organization released a statement in opposition to the idea of building the new arena at the location. 

“The proposed site… lies only one block away from the Chinatown community. It would have a significant impact on this community,” the statement reads, in part. 

“We ask our city government to stand with us on this matter,” said Wei Chen, Asian Americans United's Civic Engagement Director.

This is not the first time the Chinatown community has stood firmly against the idea of a new facility being built in the area.

More than two decades ago, then-Mayor John Street proposed the idea of constructing a new $685 million baseball stadium near Chinatown at 12th & Vine Streets. 

At the time, protests took place, arguing that a stadium being built there would prevent the neighborhood from expanding in the future and be a misuse of public funds. 

Councilmember Helen Gym, who was very vocal in her opposition to the Phillies stadium being built so close to Chinatown two decades ago, remains vocal today about the Sixers’ proposal. 

The Phillies did not end up in Center City, as Citizens Bank Park was instead built in South Philadelphia. 

Howard Eskin, Philadelphia sports anchor and talk show host, also shared concerns about the impact the new stadium would have. 

In behest to the likely concerns that would prop up, David Gould, 76ers Chief Diversity and Impact Officer, said: “Our pledge is to advance equitable, community-driven revitalization through this project and to ensure the arena is a win for fans, Philadelphia and the surrounding communities.”

With the current timeline having the design take place beginning in 2024 and construction beginning in 2028, there are still some years remaining to tie all loose ends, listen to all sides of the discussion and continue to determine whether it will actually happen, or if this proposal will have the same fate as the Phillies 20 years ago. 

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