America’s Showplace: The Philadelphia Spectrum

by Stephen Pagano

As a kid, I attended several events at The Philadelphia Spectrum. Whether it was a 76ers game, an unforgettable concert, a Big Foot Monster Truck Show, the circus, or a memorable WWF wrestling match, it was always a great time. Now, as I stare at this empty parking lot, looking toward XFINITY Live!, I begin to reminisce about what once was “America’s Showplace.”

On September 30th, 1967, the South Philadelphia Sports Complex became home to its second stadium, an indoor arena called The Spectrum, which would be home to the new expansion Flyers and the existing 76ers.

In the 1970s, opposing NHL teams feared playing at The Spectrum. The Flyers were transforming into the iconic “Broad Street Bullies,” with their frightful and combative demeanor. Singer Kate Smith’s rendering of “God Bless America” became a good luck charm for the Flyers at The Spectrum. On May 19th, 1974, the Philadelphia Flyers hoisted their first Lord Stanley Cup at The Spectrum, in front of 17,000 screaming fans. They defeated the Boston Bruins in six tough fought games. The parade that followed was massive.

Bobby Clark said, “There’s no way of describing the parade. It was phenomenal. We met in The Spectrum parking lot. There were so many people all along [the route], we kept thinking there would be a break in people, but there was no break.”

Spectrum 1

In 1975, the Philadelphia Flyers were in the Stanley Cup Finals once again, and repeated their championship in the hockey world, defeating the Buffalo Sabres in six games. Flyers goaltender, Bernie Parent won the Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophies in back-to-back years, after having a stellar postseason. In 1976, The Spectrum hosted both the NHL and NBA All-Star Games, becoming the only arena ever to do so in the same year. Later that year, the Broad Street Bullies participated in their third consecutive Stanley Cup Finals appearance, but were swept out by the Montreal Canadians. The Spectrum would also host several more Stanley Cup matches, in 1980, 1985, and 1987, but all in losing efforts.

In 1977, nearly 10 years after the 76ers moved in, The Spectrum hosted its first NBA Finals. It was also home to the 1980 and 1982 NBA Finals, but the Sixers weren’t victorious in either. However, “The Showdown of ’83” was just around the corner, with the “Showtime” Lakers.

In the 1982-1983 season, the Philadelphia 76ers, led by Julius “Dr. J.” Erving, were on top of the basketball world. After acquiring Moses Malone from the Houston Rockets, they were poised for a third match up with the Los Angeles Lakers in four years, in the Championship. Moses Malone famously proclaimed, “fo’, fo’, fo’,” expressing that they’d cruise to the NBA title, without losing. After running through the Eastern Conference with just one loss, the Philadelphia 76ers swept their rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers, capturing the NBA title at The Spectrum. It was their third championship in franchise history. Moses Malone won the Finals MVP that year.

The Spectrum was also known for having some of the greatest concerts of all-time. Elvis Presley, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, The Who, Bon Jovi, Pearl Jam, The Jacksons, Bruce Springsteen, and Whitney Houston all rocked The Spectrum at some point. As The Spectrum aged, both the Fly Guys and the Sixers had their eyes set on something newer and state-of-the-art.

In 1996, the Flyers and 76ers moved across the parking lot to a brand new facility called the Cores State Center. In its final years, The Spectrum was used by the AHL Philadelphia Phantoms, were they won a Calder Cup championship in 1998.

Spectrum 3

On July 14th, 2008, Flyers’ owner Ed Snider declared that The Spectrum would be demolished to make room for XFINITY Live! “This has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” said Snider. “The Spectrum is my baby. It’s one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me.”

Unlike Veterans Stadium, The Spectrum was not imploded. Many former Philadelphia greats attended the wrecking ball ceremony on November 23th, 2010, including Hall of Famers, Julius Erving, Bobby Clark, and Bernie Parent. A lot of fans, including myself, own parts of the former Spectrum arena such as, seats, signage, bricks, and pieces of the floor. Snider passed away on April 11th, 2016. Since his death, a street has been renamed in his honor to Snider Way, located at 11th & Pattison.

Nowadays, all we have left are the unforgettable memories that were once made at America’s Showplace in South Philadelphia.

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