At noon on Tuesday, November 23rd, thousands of sports fans crowded into the parking area adjacent to the Spectrum to be part of the final days of the venerable sports arena known as the Spectrum.
In the crowd waiting for the ceremony to begin was the Solomon family. Coni Solomon told me that they met at the Spectrum and later were married at the River Rink on ice wearing Flyers uniforms. Their daughter, Danielle, mentioned the date: November 17th, 1998.
Joseph Sahina was at the event with his daughters Victoria and Julianne. He said he is a Charter member as a Flyers season ticket holder. The Sahinas reside in Philadelphia.
Fifty-seven-year-old Billy Wyche, of Germantown, carried three large Sixers posters, showing Dr. J dunking a basketball. He was hoping to get the Dr. to sign those large posters.
So you see many of those in attendance had purpose being there.
On the stage in front of the Spectrum, Dr. J, aka Julius Erving, said he was proud being a native son, and enjoyed his time with the Sixers. He related several stories about his experience as a Sixer, including one about security guards dressed as Santas who got into a fight with rowdy fans.
“I sat at mid-court and watched the action,” he laughed.
Flyers players from the championship years, Bobby Clarke and Bernie Parent, also were on stage. Each told how much they enjoyed playing in Philadelphia. In the first year as a Flyer, Bobby said there were about 200 fans in the stands. Seven years later, he told an enthusiastic audience, millions lined Broad Street to see their championship team.
Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider, the man who would bring a NHL team to Philadelphia, spoke last before a bright orange ball crushed into the bricks of the Spectrum. He lauded Lauren Hart, daughter of the late Flyer broadcaster. Hart sang God Bless America at the start of the ceremony.
“The Spectrum will always be a special place for so many people,” Snider said. “And, while the bricks and mortar may soon be gone, the memories will live with us forever. The Spectrum has meant so much to me, personally, and while it is a very sad moment, I reflect back on all of the terrific memories and excitement that the Spectrum brought to millions of people. It really gives me a thrill to have been a part of that.”
The demolition of the 43-year-old Spectrum also signals the start of construction for Philly Live, a retail, restaurant and entertainment district.
“Philly Live will be a terrific place for fans to gather before, during and after events, as well as a much-needed destination for this part of the region on non-event days,” said Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko. “With demolition signaling the start of Philly Live, we expect to break ground on the project in the spring and open for business by the spring of 2012.”