Sixers owner waits six whole days after arena plan collapse to start plotting new arena plan

Me, six days ago, after Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris’s plan for $700 million in public subsidies for a waterfront arena crashed and burned:

This is almost certainly not the end of Harris’s lobbying for a new arena, though: He still wants out of the building he rents from the Flyers once his lease expires in 2031, so there will almost certainly be a Plan B and C and all the way up to Floob. … The Penn’s Landing mini-saga is over for now, though, and 2031 is still a bit away, so expect a lull while Harris regroups and seeks his next opportunity.

So I might have been just slightly optimistic about that lull:

“They just want to control their arena. They don’t want to be a tenant at this point,” said Michael Barmash, a broker with commercial real estate firm Colliers International in Philadelphia, who is not helping in the search for a new site. “There are options out there.”…

What the Sixers may want most of all is to escape the Wells Fargo Center’s remote, parking-lot encircled corner of South Philadelphia in favor of a bustling enclave of restaurants, hotels and other amenities for fans to enjoy, said Thomas Hazinski, who advises teams and cities on stadium projects as a managing director with Chicago-based consultancy HVS.

Okay, so this isn’t Harris himself trying to jump-start new arena talks in the media, though he did issue a team statement that “we intend to explore all options in Philadelphia for when our lease expires in 2031,” which is well-established code for “let the bidding war commence!” And engaging in media campaigns by proxy is also a well-established tradition, so it’s reasonable to at least be suspicious that Harris has been talking to real estate firms and stadium advisors about how it’d be a shame if anything happened to the Sixers playing in Philly.

As for that “bustling enclave,” it’s tough to say if that’s what Harris really wants — all evidence is that arena-district spending by fans is pretty minimal, so maybe what Hazinski really means is that Harris wants to get to own a lot of stuff in addition to an arena, which would make more sense. Still, Harris has to know that the most lucrative part of sports venue development is the subsidies, and the best way to get those is to rattle sabers as early as possible about the possibility of your team moving across state lines, and oh look, there’s a mention of Camden in the Philadelphia Inquirer piece, right on schedule. Maybe we shoudn’t expect to wait too close to 2031 before the Sixers arena plans rear their head — after all, one person’s lull is another person’s campaign planning period.

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6 comments on “Sixers owner waits six whole days after arena plan collapse to start plotting new arena plan

  1. The 76ers are not moving to Camden. There is a reason why that city has been referred to as “The Armpit Of The Nation.” There is Campbell’s Soup, an Aquarium and that is about it. As far as Philadelphia is concerned, good luck even with a privately funded arena ( ask Temple University about it sometime). The only thing in the 76ers favor is time. We are talking 10 years in the future ( so they basically have 7 years to get their ducks in a row).

    1. Long time readers of this site know it’s not about where they eventually move – but the threat of the move.

      And, yes, Camden sure ain’t pretty, but neither was downtown Newark when Prudential Center was built, and the thought of the Giants moving to East Rutherford in the early 70s seemed far-fetched.

      1. Good points although Newark worked for the Devils as it’s a downtown location and in the state that they call home.

        The NFL has tons of stadiums in the suburbs so East Rutherford works well for the Giants and now Jets.

    2. I like the lot between 23rd street and the Schuykill river going north/south and between Cherry and the bridge going east/west. Near public transportation, the train station and a freeway.

      All that being said, if this is about controlling the arena, Harris should’ve waited around a bit and bought the Flyers instead of the Devils. By buying the Flyers, he’d control the arena he’s currently in as opposed to building from scratch.

      1. I remember someone talking up a Phillies stadium on the Schuylkill around 2000 or so, but that location looks too small to have been the site. It actually looks like a tight squeeze even for an indoor arena.

        1. I think it could fit an arena by itself. The question is where would he put all the ancillary development?

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