First Union Spectrum
visiting-experience and pictures by Stefan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Translation by Bernt Pölling-Vocke (Bernty@gmx.com)
The "Spectrum", the longtime home of the NHL´s Philadelphia Flyers and the NBA´s Philadelphia 76ers, was opened in 1967 at the relatively high cost of 7 million dollars (at least high for the 70s). Today, on the other hand, you can spend seven millions on a large jumbotron, but 2nd line centers also earn more money than half the population of Tansania so things haven´t really developped for the better. Anyways, with a capacity of 18.168 (17.380 for hockey) the Spectrum was one of the biggest arenas of its time and the Flyers surely knew how to fill those seats.
The name "Spectrum" itself stands for Sports, Entertainment, Concerts, Theatrics, Recreation and Stadium by the way...
Over the course of the years the Spectrums turned into one of the most succesful arenas in North America. Huge events were hosted inside, the Flyers won two Stanley Cups (1974, 75), the 76ers staged the NBA Allstar-Game in 1976 and in the same year Elvis Presley had his last live-performance in front of a racious crowd. In 1992 the NHL-Allstar-Game found its way to Philly as well and in 1998 the Philadelhpia Phantoms captured the Calder Cup, the championship-trophy of the AHL (picture on the right).
In 1996 the Flyers and 76ers moved across the parking lot into the newer, bigger and flashier First Union Center (became the Wachovia Center in 2003) so that the Spectrum has become a bit quiet since then. Right now it serves as the home of the AHL´s Philadelphia Phantoms and the Philadelphia Kixx (indoor soccer).
Immedeatly ahead of the construction of the new First Union Center the CoreStates bought the naming rights to the new facility. In 1998 the CoreStates Bank merged with the First Union Bank, ever since then both arenas are known as the First Union Center/Spectrum.
Attendance figures for the Philadelhpia Phantoms can only be described as great by minor league standards. In the first year of the club´s existence 9.200 fans showed up on the average which put the Phantoms at the top of the leauge. From 1998 to 2000 average attendance climbed into 5-digit-areas before taking a drop afterwards again. By averaging 11.809 fans in 1997/1998 the Phantoms also broke the longstanding AHL-attendance-record of the "Boston Braves", which dated back to the 1971/1972 season. Eight sellouts played a big part of the record-setting campaign when 17.380 people flooded the Spectrum as it had been common when the Flyers still entertained their fans in the old barn.
On nights with lower attendance figures a huge curtain is lowered over the upper bowl of the arena in order to heat up the atmosphere in the otherwise rather empty-looking building.
The arena itself is more or less an earlier version of today´s sports-arenas. The typical seperation with a lower- and an upper bowl with a few corporate suits in between can be found just as in the First Union Center a short walking distance down the parking-lot. The seats are rather narrow compared to today´s seats though and the rows are closer to each other. It would be interesting to know if Philadelphia´s population was a lot smaller or at least less overweight in the past because the average inhabitant of the "city of brotherly love" should easily fill more than one seat at the Spectrum (about 60% of Philadelphias population have to be considered obese). In part this might be due to the famous Philly Cheese-Steaks you can find everywhere around town ("invented" by "Geno´s Steaks" in southern Philly), if you´re at a game and not in the mood for those there is, of course, the typical arena-food available. Pizza, soda and nachos as overprized as everywhere....
Tickets are pretty cheap, at least by comparison to the tickets of the nearby Philadelphia Flyers. You shouldn´t have any problems getting a bunch of them as well as the Spetrum is rather oversized for the AHL on most nights. The cheapest seats cost around 11 dollars and the hockey displayed on the ice should be pretty compareable to european top leagues, at least from my point of view when I witnessed a game between the Phantoms and the Syracuse Crunch in December 2001.
The scoreboard of the Spectrum is a rather modern jumbotron. Even today seperate shots-on-goal-counters can´t be found at all NHL teams (just travel to the Islanders if you think otherwise). The screens are not really that big but sufficient for the building they serve.
The view is also pretty good from every seat in the building as the rows are very close to each other and every seat is as close to the ice as somehow possible. With less corporate suits than in the First Union Center between the bowls and also less distance between the rows and seats it just doesn´t compare to sitting in the upper level at a Flyers´s game where you are almost half a mile from the ice.
Just one concourse is running around the building where you can find the typical merchandise-stuff. Fan-articles of the Phantoms are also priced rather friendly by comparison to NHL-stuff. With many families or people with lower income in attendance and less corporate customers in the building this doesn´t really come as a big suprise. And it is definetly not a bad thing...
Right in front of the arena one can find the famous Rocky-statue from the movie "Rocky III". It had just been placed in front of the museum for the shooting of the movie and was placed to the Spectrum right after that. Just as the Michael Jordan statue at the United Center it´s a nice place to take a souvenir-picture when you are around.
I would like to cut it rather short: as I had already mentioned before the Spectrum (circled in red) is just right next to the First Union Center - just check the directions on that page! From my point of view the best way to get to the arena is the local subway. Just take it to the "Sports Complex" which shouldn´t cost more than 1.50 $ and saves you a lot of traffic jams and red traffic lights on Broad Street. And parking-costs at the arena as well...
Seating chart of the arena:
Tipps vor visitors:
Even though both the Flyers and the 76ers declard the Spectrum as insufficient in the early 90s and moved to the First Union Center later on I can only recommend a visit of the Spectrum. At least hockey-fans from Europe will be suprised to see that the old barn in Philly would still be a dream-venue for many teams in Europe. If you´re just in town for a day or two or have the choice between a Flyers and a Phantoms game I would definetly choose the Flyers but if you have some more time or the Flyers are on the road at the moment a visit of the Spectrum won´t dissapoint you. The building still has a lot of atmosphere, atmosphere you won´t find at the look-alike-arenas of the late 90s. It might not be as famous as the Maple Leaf Gardens or the Boston Garden but one can easily imagine what a great place it must have been when the "Broad Street Bullies" of the 70s won the Stanley Cup there.
Right after the game you won´t find any interesting place to go around the building as there is nothing but a bunch of other sports-facilities. I would recommend a return-trip to downtown Philadelphia where you can find good restaurants and bars. If you´re on the the lookout for german beer I would advise you to visit the "Ludwigsgarten" (1315 Sansom Street) where you can find dozens of german beers and german food. Other good ideas: "Monk´s" (264, 16th street) and "Fado" (15th street/Locust street).
The Sports Complex in southern
official homepage of the Phantoms:
homepage of the Spectrum: