The Spectrum's final days

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If you ever drive up I-95 through South Philly, you will inevitably see the city’s sports complex. Right next to the highway is Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles. The large white arena is The Wachovia Center, where the Sixers and Flyers play. And the one with the big Phillies logo is Citizen’s Bank Park, of course.

But you might also see a small, circular brown building that looks completely out of place. That’s the Wachovia Spectrum, or just “The Spectrum” for anyone who grew up in around Philly. And it’s a building filled with some great history. More than 40 years of NBA and NHL games, Stanley Cups and NBA Playoffs, some great concerts and Duke’s miracle win over Kentucky to reach the NCAA Final Four in 1992. (The Laettner game.)

And there’s this, of course, for you Flyers fans:

 

 

I grew up in suburban Philly and made a number of trips with my dad to see Charles Barkley and the Sixers play. (We weren’t a big hockey family, so our trips to see the Flyers were less frequent.) It was a great place to watch basketball, with seats that seemed much closer to the court and noise that would bounce off the low rafters. With a ceiling so low, it often seemed like you could reach out and grab one of the banners.

(It was also where I learned what marijuana smelled like. I swear, the place always smelled like marijuana. But I digress.)

Why am I telling you all this? Well, the Spectrum is closing later this year to make way for a new mixed-use development at the sports complex. The Sixers, who moved out of the Spectrum in 1996, will play a special game there Friday. The building will likely be torn down after the Kixx, an indoor soccer team, and the AHLs’ Phantoms finish their seasons.

The Capitals will play the Flyers in Philly tomorrow, and while they will be playing the in newer Wachovia Center, it’s worth noting the history of the two teams at the Spectrum: 71 games between the two teams there, including the Stanley Cup playoff games in 1989. The Spectrum hosted the decisive 6th game, won by the Flyers 4-3.

As for the Bullets, they won exactly one playoff game at the Spectrum: Game 1 of the first round in 1986. The Bullets were bounced from the playoffs in the first round by the Sixers in 1980, 1985 and 1986.

One of these days, certainly not in the near future but probably sometime before we all die, Verizon Center will close too. And I think there’s a good chance—particularly if the Caps or Wizards can find a way to win a championship there—that it will be remembered as fondly as the Spectrum in Philly.

- Tim Lemke

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