The Spectrum: Heart and Soul of Philadelphia

Anyone that lived in Philadelphia from the late 60’s until the 2,000’s, knew and loved ‘The Spectrum’. While it was called by many other names, including: The Wachovia Spectrum, CoreStates Spectrum, and First Union Spectrum, it was and always will be known as simply ‘The Spectrum’ by the locals.

Oddly named in 1967 when it opened, the letters are actually an acronym: ‘SP’ represents ‘sports’ and has also been referred to as ‘South Philadelphia. The ‘E’ for ‘entertainment,’ as it was planned to host a variety of venues. The ‘C’ for the many ‘circuses,’ that would be there. The ‘T’ for all of the ‘theatricals,’ plays, drama and movie backdrops. The ‘R’ for ‘recreation,’ which covered a lot of topics. And ‘UM’, well they decided that would stand for: ‘um, what a nice building!”.

For sports fans, this indoor arena was the home of football, basketball, ice hockey, indoor soccer and a Philadelphia favorite: lacrosse. The 76ers and The Flyers games were number one attractions. It was there that first Stanley Cup was won by The Flyers in 1974. Ten NHL and NBA playoff championships were held at The Spectrum. From College Basketball, wrestling to bull ride competitions, everything was at The Spectrum. For the rest of us, it was also the home of concerts. I saw my very first concert at The Spectrum: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, when Neil Young had first joined the group and right after the shooting at Ohio State University. Notable groups of the time also included: The Grateful Dead, Genesis, KISS, The Who, Aerosmith, The Doors, Cream and Bruce Springsteen. My school, Philadelphia High School for Girls, was invited to participate in an all-out gala event, representing dance, gymnastics and performances by all of the schools in the city. Anything that was ‘happening’ – happened at The Spectrum. There wasn’t a night that went by that some kind of event wasn’t on the local news because The Spectrum was a beloved part of the heart and soul of Philadelphia.

The Spectrum, was included with only a few other select locations ( the Met Center and The Forum being two other local stadiums), was one of the first sports arenas to actually have a scoreboard with a message board. The Spectrum scoreboard was one of the first dot matrix for pro hockey and basketball, with the capacity of producing photographs, animation, and message replays.

Time passes, and there came a time when the expansions and renovations were just not good enough. The loyal Philadelphia sports team fans were looking for bigger, better and flashier venues. The era of the mega arenas had entered all of our lives and The Spectrum, had reached its capacity seating of around 17,300. And so the decision was made to demolish and replace. Ground was broken in the mid 90’s on The Wachovia Center. The Spectrum became little more than an icon building, standing proud. In the fall of 2010 I returned to Philadelphia on a business trip. Riding in a taxi, I passed this wonderful building, full of history and memories. It was the same as I remembered it. Empty now and without the thousands of people swarming the walk area with the electric feeling of an event. No cars were in the parking lot, so it had an odd feeling of waiting. I’m glad I had the chance to see this wonderful place one last time. One month later, they started the demolition.

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