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Philadelphia 76ers unveil plans to build $1.3bn arena

The Philadelphia 76ers NBA basketball team has today (Thursday) detailed plans to build a new arena, with a dedicated company having been created to oversee the project.

The arena has been given the provisional name of 76 Place, with the Sixers planning on building the venue on part of the current Fashion District Philadelphia. It is hoped the arena will serve as an anchor for the city centre.

The arena will be privately funded and is expected to cost around $1.3bn (£1.1bn/€1.27bn). The Sixers said the arena will provide $1.9bn in overall economic output during construction and $400m annually upon opening to support Philadelphia’s long-term economic growth and sustainability.

It is hoped the arena will be completed in time for the 2031-32 NBA season, but groundbreaking is not expected for several years. The timeline for the project foresees that construction will not begin until 2028, after the necessary approvals, design process and demolition work is carried out.

The Sixers currently share Wells Fargo Center with NHL ice hockey franchise the Philadelphia Flyers. The arena is owned by Comcast Spectacor and the Sixers’ lease at the facility is due to expire in 2031.

The team said it was “thankful” for the recent renovations carried out at Wells Fargo Center by Comcast Spectacor, but claimed these improvements are “typical for arenas that are 20 years old and will not significantly extend the life of the building”.

The 76 Devcorp company has been set up to oversee the new arena project and local businessman David Adelman has been appointed to lead the venture in partnership with Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which owns the team.

Adelman is the chief executive of Campus Apartments, co-founder of FS Investments and founder of Darco Capital. He will serve as chairman of 76 Devcorp and will be given a mandate to locate, design and develop a “world-class” arena for the Sixers.

76 Devcorp evaluated numerous potential sites before determining the fashion district as its preferred location. The site has been selected due to its transport links, the ability to redevelop an existing commercial space, and the opportunity to play a role in the continued revitalisation of Philadelphia’s city centre.

Josh Harris, Sixers managing partner, said: “The Philadelphia 76ers are a storied Philadelphia institution with a proven track record of investing in their community. That’s why we’re committed to building a world-class home in the heart of the city and creating a privately-funded arena that strengthens ties within the local community through investments that prioritise equity, inclusivity and accessibility.

“David Adelman shares our vision for ensuring that the new arena is an anchoring force in the local community, creating well-paying jobs and economic opportunities for those who need them most.”

Adelman said: “The Philadelphia 76ers’ extensive evaluation of potential sites for an arena over the past two years culminates today with plans to pursue the Fashion District Philadelphia site as the proposed new home of the team.

“The chosen location is a key step in the process of developing a destination that provides Center City and surrounding communities with an economic engine generating activity through 76ers and youth games, concerts, events and more.”

In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Adelman said the new arena will serve as Philadelphia’s “own Madison Square Garden”. The Inquirer reported that the Sixers will work with Gensler, AECOM Hunt, Langan Engineering and local developer Mosaic on the project.

The arena would seat 18,500, slightly less than Wells Fargo Center, which holds 20,478.

76 Devcorp will work closely with Macerich, the managing partner of the owning entities and operator of Fashion District Philadelphia, to realise the full potential of the site. A community engagement process is also planned to gauge local interest in the project.

Tom O’Hern, chief executive of Macerich, said: “At Macerich, we are constantly enhancing our properties to bring greater value to our shareholders, retailers and communities.

“The decision to repurpose part of Fashion District Philadelphia to include the new 76ers arena is a natural evolution of the site and a unique and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our company. We are committed to working collaboratively with 76 Devcorp to bring to life the vision of this iconic development that will ensure Philadelphia’s vibrancy for generations to come.”

76 Devcorp has also committed to investing in under-resourced communities to advance equitable, community-driven revitalisation. The company will work with Mosaic Development Partners, a Black-owned, Philadelphia-based real estate development company with experience in affordable housing and inclusive communities.

The Sixers confirmed in August 2020 that the team was “studying the idea” of building a new arena but today marks the first time that concrete plans have been announced.

Image: Philadelphia 76ers