The proposed 76 Place arena in downtown Philadelphia, the planned new home of the NBA’s 76ers in … [+]
It may take nearly a decade, but the Philadelphia 76ers are moving downtown. A recently unveiled privately financed $1.3 billion 76 Place arena plan aims to remake an underused mall in the Fashion District and create a local hub atop one of the most connected transit centers in the city.
“I think now that we have had the grand unveiling, we now need to show people we are for real,” says David Adelman, chairman of the arena development corporation and billionaire businessman as CEO of Campus Apartments, co-founder of FS Investments and founder of Darco Capital. “It is not a fairy tale. This is a reality.”
Having vowed to not take any public subsidies—”the city can’t afford it,” Adelman says—the 76ers will first start working with community stakeholders to craft the vision for the 76 Place arena and then move toward design, construction and a 2031 opening. The opening of the new venue is timed with the expiring of the team’s lease at the Wells Fargo Center.
After searching for a potential arena site, Adelman says the desire to support Center City can happen with the remaking of a portion of the Fashion District mall. The new arena will take over one of the mall’s existing three blocks, allowing a natural progression of revitalization to the other two blocks as part of a fresh approach to year-round activation.
“The mall hasn’t lived up to its full potential,” Adelman says. “We will open up the ground floor and invite people in for a place to congregate. My view is the best anecdote for safety and security is feet on the street. We think this does that.”
The 76ers will partner with Macerich MAC, managing partner and owner of Fashion District Philadelphia, to coordinate programming while eliminating redundancy between the two as arena plans call for incorporating local businesses and restaurants. “How do we make this venue,” Adelman says, “not feel like a typical arena operated like a robotic way? The goal is to bring authenticity to food and programing with Chinatown neighbors. I haven’t seen anyone master this yet, but we have nine years. We don’t want to walk by the arena on a non-game or non-concert day and have it look dead. We will wrap the ground floor with retail. That whole building needs to be active.”
“With our partners, the economic development piece is really important to them,” Adelman says about 76 Devcorp working in partnership with the 76ers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer. “We want to be a catalyst for the middle of the city.”
The 76ers have started planning with sports architecture firm Gensler on the preliminary design. Already a defining feature of the location has emerged as the subway that feeds directly to the site. The stop, which sits at court level, has access to over 200 stations, nine times more connections than the current venue.
With construction on 76 Place not expected to start until 2028, following demolition of the site in 2026, part of the lengthy timeline involves working with local stakeholders. The mall has been in place for 48 years, but a plan over two decades ago to put a baseball stadium in the area involved displacing businesses and residential. Adelman says that while they’re careful to put the arena where entertainment already exists, believing they will be trading like for like in use, they want to work with the community and have vowed not to displace anyone.
The 76ers have been watching what’s going on around the league when it comes to downtown arenas, from the Fiserv
FISV Forum in Milwaukee to the Chase Center in San Francisco or the transit-heavy Madison Square Garden in Manhattan or Barclays Center in Brooklyn. He cites the open-air plaza at Milwaukee, the connection to transit in New York, the reinvigoration of the city in Toronto with Scotiabank Arena as examples to learn from.
“I’m involved in a lot of other businesses, I’m only doing this because I think this is an exciting project,” Adelman says. “I am 50 (years old) now and going to be 60 when I go to my first game. I care about Philadelphia deeply. This is our chance to make a comeback. I want to do something great for the city.”