76ers part owner David Adelman: Why new 76 Place arena makes sense for team, opposition he faces


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Downtown arenas across U.S. cities are commonplace in today’s sports realm. 

When looking at the NBA, 28 of the 30 teams play somewhere downtown in their respective cities, whether it is the Dallas Mavericks’ American Airlines Center or Boston’s famous TD Garden. 

The Philadelphia 76ers, along with the Chicago Bulls and their iconic United Center, do not play downtown. Instead, they are part of a South Philadelphia trio of sporting venues, specifically the Wells Fargo Center. 

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David Adelman poses with basketball

Philadelphia 76ers owner David Adelman poses with a basketball. (NBA Photos- Jesse D. Garrabant)

However, 76ers limited partner David Adelman is looking to change all that. With help from managing partners, Josh Harris and David Blitzer, he is leading the charge of “76 Place,” a new arena at Market East in the heart of Philadelphia that not only will impact the team and its fans, but more importantly, the city as a whole. 

It is an all-in bet by the team, as the $1.5 billion it is expected to cost will be privately funded by Adelman, Harris and Blitzer. “No cost for Philly taxpayers” is bulletined on the project’s website as well as advertisements on the video boards attached to the mall in which the arena will be built. 

“I feel a tremendous amount of pressure and opportunity to bring this to Philadelphia. I feel that burden,” Adelman told Fox News Digital after showing the vision for what he hopes will breathe new life into a city he believes is “dying.”

However,, as Adelman put it many times, Philadelphians are not keen on change. Opposition to his project has been more than expected from various fronts, including the team’s current landlord at Wells Fargo Center: Comcast Spectacor.

To understand why Adelman and the 76ers wish to build a brand-new arena downtown, one must first look at their current situation in South Philly. 

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WHY A NEW ARENA MAKES SENSE FOR THE TEAM

Control is the theme when talking to Adelman about why, from a team perspective, the team wishes to make a move. Foremost, it is no secret this ownership group has been looking for a new home, as there was a previous 2020 proposal to build a new arena at Penn’s Landing. 

Control starts with scheduling, which Adelman broke down in the past as the Sixers came in third. Comcast Spectacor sets the dates for concerts and other events at the Wells Fargo Center, followed by the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, which the corporation also owns. Because of that, the 76ers cannot set an ideal schedule for themselves each season. 

The 76ers’ lease with Comcast Spectacor and Wells Fargo Center ends in 2031, which is when 76 Place is expected to be done. 

“We have a productive relationship with our landlord currently, but we want to control our own path,” Adelman said. “We can have debates over scheduling and all this other stuff. I don’t want to debate it. We just want to control our own home, control our fan experience, and be the first priority in the building. Not the third.”

There are also team facilities, which include locker rooms, training rooms and medical services, that are not up-to-date compared to other arenas in the league. Adelman explained how proper treatment for players requires a trip to Camden, New Jersey, where the Sixers’ other facility is located. The 76ers also put $10 million of their own money into locker room renovations at Wells Fargo, though what they wish to do further cannot happen at the arena. 

Given Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment has a healthy track record of productive venues across the country, Adelman has faith this project will check all the proposed boxes for the team and its fans. 

“We own Prudential Center and that’s the No. 5-performing venue in the country,” he explained. “We know how to operate buildings really, really well. We understand venue operation. So, for us, we just think there’s a different path.”

Rendering of 76Place

A rendering of 76 Place, the proposed new home of the Philadelphia 76ers at Market East in Philadelphia. (76ers/76Place)

THE LOGISTICS

It is expected for a downtown arena to lead to multiple buildings needing to come down, or taking over a plot of land. However, with the Fashion District mall, Adelman views it as simply dropping a court inside the mall without needing to alter the outside. That and the Greyhound bus station behind the mall at Filbert Street is the land Adelman will be working on.

The arena will be built atop SEPTA’s Jefferson Station, which has access to 220 stops via subway, Regional Rail and PATCO train lines – a huge reason why Adelman and his team chose the location. To get to Wells Fargo Center from inside the city, all travel leads through Jefferson Station anyway. 

Adelman likens his vision to Boston’s TD Garden, which sits above a busy train station with shops, restaurants and other amenities for fans to engage with either before or after games and events. 

“Right now, if you want to go to the game, you go to the game and leave,” Adelman explained. “There’s no pre-game, there’s no opportunity to have a pre-game meal. The logistics don’t work for that. … We respect the fact our season ticket holders are spending a lot of money. They should be able to have a full experience. Go out to eat after work, go get something after the game. Go get a drink before you go home. We want to be able to control that. That’s what it really comes down to – that end-to-end experience.”

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Right now, Market East is filled with boarded-up storefronts, as businesses have not been able to sustain themselves since the pandemic in the area. Outward-facing retail is a main point of emphasis to elevate the area, not just on days when the 76ers tip-off. 

“The arena is not going to solve everything that ails downtown Philadelphia, but it becomes a catalyst that gives other people confidence,” Adelman said. “If Josh, David and I are going to put [$1.5 billion] downtown, will that entice a small business operator to invest $100,000 into opening his restaurant? That is the momentum we want to create.”

THE CONCERNS

First, Market East is not the best area in terms of feeling safe in Philadelphia, and Adelman is well aware of that. 

“First, I think the way to change safety is you start with the perception,” he said as someone who ventured into the area at all times of day heading into the project. “The perception of Market East at night is dark, dingy and not a lot of people there. One, light it up. Two, cameras in the neighborhoods. Three, clean it up. Clean areas feel safer. Those are things within our respective control. That’s really important.”

Also, for a fanbase so used to getting to sporting events outside the city, especially those looking to drive in to see their favorite teams, the proposal of a downtown arena has led to complaints and pushback. 

76Place 2

An aerial view of the proposed 76 Place, the new home of the Philadelphia 76ers at Market East. (76ers/76Place)

“Why?” Adelman questioned fans who do not want to see the 76ers move from South Philly. “Again, I think Lincoln Financial Field is a great place to watch a football game. I have (had) season tickets for a long time, I’ve had Phillies tickets for a long time. I think Citizens Bank Park is a great ballpark. 

“But I’m not sure it matters they’re right across the street from each other. At least it doesn’t to me because I’m going to a particular event that day. Football stadiums aren’t downtown because you need the tailgating experience and stuff like that.

“Tailgating, if you go to Boston or any of these other cities, are the bars and restaurants. That’s your pre-game experience. We want to enhance that.”

The Sixers have noted in the past to sell pre-paid parking passes to one of the 29 surrounding lots, while also looking at plausible ride-share pickup and drop-off points to allow flow instead of congestion. The team is hoping the large access via public transportation will be used more often, too. 

However, these are just concerns about the arena when it is built. There is opposition coming from many directions, including their current landlord.

THE OPPOSITION

Comcast Spectacor used to own the 76ers, but in 2011, they sold the team to a group led by Harris and Blitzer. As mentioned, the team has looked to create its own destiny in the past, but see it coming to fruition now with 76 Place. 

However, it has been a “fight,” as Adelman put it, with Comcast in regard to getting this project up and running. He said he has spoken with Comcast, including chairperson and CEO Brian Roberts, about the project. Though he commends him for building the company’s headquarters downtown in the city where it was founded, Adelman is not trying to see eye to eye on this. 

“As I said to him and said to others, when he decided to build his office building and he moved out of somebody else’s office building, I don’t remember a bunch of office landlords getting together and saying we oppose this because it’s going to create competition for us,” Adelman said.

It is logical to say the 76ers leaving Comcast’s Wells Fargo Center will create a revenue decrease, so not wanting them to leave is a warranted reaction. Comcast has said in the past it wants to continue supporting the Sixers, wants them to win championships and hopes that they can remain in the fold, especially with their South Philly sports complex renovation they are looking to have done in the next decade. 

Wells Fargo Center general view

Exterior view of the Wells Fargo Center before a college basketball game between the Providence Friars and the Villanova Wildcats on Feb. 4, 2024 in Philadelphia. (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

It has been speculated the deal would cost around $2.5 billion and include an upgrade to the popular Xfinity Live! venue, while also adding a new mid-sized concert venue, hotel and much more.

Wells Fargo also saw a $400 million renovation that will conclude at the end of March, though Adelman points out the arena itself will be one of the oldest in the NBA by lease’s end. Adelman notes HBSE invited Comcast Spectacor to join the 76ers with its Flyers at 76 Place in 2031, but they are looking at the future of the sports complex instead. 

“Our vision for developing the sports and entertainment complex has been in the making for many years and recently crystalized into a tremendous opportunity to provide sustainable economic impact, all with a focus on what is best for Philadelphia in mind,” a Comcast Spectacor spokesperson told Fox News Digital. “We are moving ahead with this project and will be working with many partners to bring it to life. We offered the 76ers an opportunity to join with us and hope they do, as we all know, that when we all work together great things can happen for the City and the region.”

There is also the local Chinatown area where 76 Place will be. Backlash about the project has led to local protests since the proposal came down in July 2022. Locals are opposed to the project with a variety of thought processes, from construction ruining access to businesses in the area, to residents and small businesses feeling they will be priced out of the area. 

Adelman and his 76 Place team have held public meetings for locals to ask questions about the project, and they have been productive. Team management has noted investment will be made in public safety, affordable housing and more in the area. 

However, these public meetings have also given Adelman a different perspective on what it is like to be in the public’s eye, especially with such heavy opposition. 

“What also doesn’t get talked about is — we were in a meeting today — the politicians were acknowledging that a lot of the opponents are paid. I’m not suggesting where the money’s coming from, but we know they’re paid.

“The best example I can give you is we did an event in front of 600 people, a public meeting. We told people no backpacks, no signs, and people will have time for public questions. All of a sudden, I see a commotion in the back and someone’s pulling a sign out of their pants. They roll it up and securities ushering them out, and all the TV cameras are following them like, ‘Oh my God, these guys are getting exactly what they want, all this attention.’ I stop the presentation. I say, ‘Excuse me, security, let them stay. And by the way, give them back their signs.’ I say, ‘You can keep your signs, but you have to stand at the front of the room and hold them up. And you’re all going to be given the opportunity to ask me questions. Anything you want, including reading the sign to me.’ Not one of them asked me a question. Paid protesters.”

Adelman also made sure to note that support for the project comes from the 12,200 jobs that will be created to build 76 Place, injecting over $2.3 billion into Center City in construction alone.

David Adelman speaks with kid

Philadelphia 76ers owner David Adelman speaks with children at a team event. (Philadelphia 76ers)

THE LEGACY

Adelman’s wish to make 76 Place a lasting landmark in the center of Philadelphia for his team and its fans goes all the way back to being a product of the great city himself.

“I think Philly is a hidden gem,” he said, as he consistently brought up the underrated dining scene as well as recalling moments as a kid while driving through the city. 

“Philadelphia is a big part of my success – how I did it, where I was, all of that. And I think it’s important to do something to give back. I’ve always said to my kids that if you don’t like the way something is going, if you’re going to complain about it and not do something about it, keep your mouth shut. So, I was like, ‘This stretch of downtown is broken. It needs to be fixed. There’s a reason no one’s bought these boarded-up, vacant buildings because no one believes in it.’ Someone needs to take a chance on the city.”

Adelman is thankful for Harris and Blitzer’s commitment to getting 76 Place done. He also knows his dream cannot be fulfilled without the team he has now with the Sixers and the real estate group at 76 Place. 

In simple terms, Adelman is all in on a bet he hopes will spark massive change in the city he loves. 

“The hyperfocus and drive to succeed is actually, I would say, one of his Hallmarks,” Daniel Bernstein, president and chief investment officer of Campus Apartments, where Adelman is CEO, told Fox News Digital when asked about the latter’s focus on 76 Place. “When he sinks his teeth into something, it typical comes with this level of intensity and this level of focus and commitment. 

“I think he’s even taken it up another notch, which is exciting to see.”  

David Adelman headshot

David Adelman, limited partner of the Philadelphia 76ers. (David Adelman)

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“I’m up for the challenge, I’m excited by it,” Adelman said. “As I tell everyone, I have no Plan B. This is it. I don’t spend an ounce of time thinking about Plan B. We’re not going to fail. We’re going to get this done.”



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