PHILADELPHIA - Its Spectrum soon to be demolished to make room for an entertainment and shopping complex, Comcast-Spectacor faced a decision: Quiet farewell, or celebration?
Tuesday, Comcast-Spectacor president Peter Luukko gave the official nod to make it a year-long party that will include one 76ers home game, a Flyers exhibition game and a series of concerts featuring some of the many classic artists who have played the building since its 1967 opening.
"This coming season will be the last season at the Spectrum," said Luukko, echoing an earlier statement from chairman Ed Snider. "So we are going to have a celebration of the Spectrum."
The Phantoms have played home games in the Spectrum since their 1996 birth as an AHL franchise. The next hockey season will be their last in the building. The Kixx may play a truncated season in a revamped indoor soccer league. But once their seasons end, the Spectrum will be closed to make way for "Philly Live!," a restaurant, shopping and entertainment complex on the site developed by the Cordish Company.
A luxury hotel may also rise on Pattison Ave., though Luukko said Tuesday that those plans are not firm.
"We are further along in the developmental process," Luukko said. "The Cordish Company is getting involved with the drawings and working closely with city officials. It's looking more and more like a reality and that this development is going to be on schedule.
"And really it was Ed Snider's idea: Let's separate the two. Things aren't definitive yet. But the plans are for next season to be the last season at the Spectrum. So let's announce that it is the last season in the Spectrum, and then celebrate the Spectrum as a building throughout the whole season."
Luukko stopped short of hanging the party decorations, but the theme, not surprisingly, is nostalgia. Thus, the reappearance of the Sixers and Flyers, who moved across the parking lot to the Wachovia Center in 1996, and the plan for some classic-artist concerts.
"We will be bringing back artists who the Spectrum was a big part of their career," Luukko said. "This was Bruce Springsteen's first big arena that he ever played in."
According to Luukko, the "Philly Live!" project is scheduled to break ground in the spring or the summer of next year and take roughly 18 months to construct.
"But as with any development, until you get your permitting and full government approvals, it's not done," Luukko said. "If you get your approvals in May and just shut your doors, then you really don't have the opportunity to really celebrate the history of the building."
It has yet to be decided whether the Spectrum will be bulldozed or imploded, but Luukko did say that its proximity to the Broad Street subway would impact that decision. Either way, the Spectrum should disappear by late next summer, making the upcoming winter one last chance for so many to remember.
"This has been one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make," said Snider in a statement. "The Spectrum is my baby. It's one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me, but after a lot of thinking and discussions, we all feel it is in our best interest to close the Spectrum at the conclusion of the upcoming 2008-09 Philadelphia Phantoms and Kixx seasons."
So begins the bon voyage party.
"The idea," Luukko said, "is to really celebrate the history of the building and to give it its proper send off."