Review of Wachovia Center, Home of the Philadelphia 76ers
Review originally published on Stadium Journey.
The Wachovia Center is the home of the Philadelphia 76ers and Flyers. Built near the soon to be demolished Spectrum, it is part of the massive Philadelphia Sports Complex, which includes Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL’s Eagles, and Citizens Bank Park, home of the two time defending National League Champion Phillies.
The first of the three to be built, the Wachovia Center is all glitz and glamour, but it lacks the Spectrum’s soul.
Here is the FANFARE rating for WACHOVIA CENTER:
Food & Beverage: 5 (out of 5)
Wow. You name it, it’s here. You like cheesesteaks? Check. You like good BBQ? Check. You like Chickie’s and Pete’s crab fries? You better, because if you don’t, you and me are gonna fight. It’s all here. Tremendous selection in food and beer, including a gluten free beer, reasonably priced at a little over seven bucks on average. There are two full bars, PJ Whelihans, no food served but full bar service and the AT&T Pavilion.
The Pavilion has Campo’s (Cheesesteaks) and Chickie’s and Pete’s (sandwiches and crab fries. Just get some, trust me.) It also has a full bar which serves, for the outrageous price of $11, a hand cut roast beef sandwich with sides. I mean, it’s probably the best roast beef sandwich you’ll ever have, it is literally hand cut before your eyes, but I have a hard time justifying paying eleven bucks for a sandwich. The Pavilion is open two hours before and after each game which makes it a great place to hang out.
The Spectrum was intimate. You and 19,000 of your closest friends would go and get behind the Sixers and will them to victory sometimes.
The Wachovia Center is nice. It’s very pretty. It has lots of fun stuff to do. But it won’t ever scare anybody. The Spectrum used to intimidate people, especially in the eighties. (Wow. Getting old.) Not here. It’s too nice. Wouldn’t want to mess anything up. I mean, you look up in the rafters, and the same banners hang, along with a couple of new ones, but it’s not the same. You got your pop-a-shot basketball games and your air hockey tables and hockey-in-a-bubble style foosball games, all your modern arena doodads and hoohah, but it just ain’t the same atmosphere. And that’s kinda sad.
Um, yeah, see, there really is no neighborhood, per se. The arena is part of the Philadelphia Sports Complex as mentioned above, which consists of three full sized sporting venues (four, if you count the Spectrum, now closed and soon to be demolished) and parking for each. There is a run of the mill Irish pub attached to Citizens Bank Park (yawn) and one attached in the hotel behind Citizens Bank Park (YAWN.) The closest neighborhood bar, Chickie’s and Pete’s is a 20-30 minute walk, which is tough to do after a Sixers game. But it might be worth it. More on that later, but not close enough to really be considered part of the stadium’s neighborhood. Special mention to the Chickie’s and Pete’s Taxi Crab, which will drop you off before and pick you up after games if you valet park with them for ten bucks.
Philly fans have a certain reputation. During my visit, which was during the teeth of the soon to be legendary Blizzard of 09, they did not disappoint.
Even with over a foot of snow on the ground (and another foot coming) when the game started, a few thousand people showed up. One guy in the upper level never – never – stopped yelling at LA Clippers guard Sebastian Telfair. I am a huge fan of hecklers; I have done it myself many times. You could hear him clear as day. At one point during a pair of free throws, he said this:
“HEY TELFAIR! YOU SUCK!” Silence. “I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME!” Raucous laughter from the crowd. “DON’T IGNORE ME, TELFAIR! YOU SUCK! WHY DON’T YOU GO BACK TO BROOKLYN?”
He later expressed his thoughtful views on Clippers center Chris Kaman’s struggle with male pattern baldness.
“HEY KAMAN! YOU HAVE MORE POINTS THAN HAIR ON YOUR HEAD!”
Classic. Bonus for so many people showing up in a blizzard.
This arena is right off I-95, the main interstate on the East Coast. It is easy to find. There is more parking than you will know what to do with, and it starts at $15. Like with most of the new arenas, bathrooms are plentiful, with family changing rooms in select locations. They were surprisingly clean.
Return on Investment: 3
You’ll have fun here; there is a lot to do. You can even watch a basketball game if you want. Bars and games abound; tickets and food are decently priced
Extra Points: 5
Chickie’s and Pete’s (www.chickiesandpetes.com) gives this the full 5 points here, in fact, if I could give more, I would. Not really close enough to walk (and not really feasible, either, you WILL be towed if you park here and go to the game), it really can’t be included in the neighborhood. (Its website claims to be walking distance. It’s not. To quote the comedian Steven Wright, “Everything is within walking distance if you have the time.”) But it is absolutely part of the whole picture. As mentioned above, you can valet park your car here for $10. The Taxi Crab will drive you to the Wachovia Center, then pick you up and bring you back after. The Crab Fries must be eaten to be believed. If you like seafood, this is the spot. If you like bar food, this is the spot. If you like giant TV screens almost one and a half stories tall, this is the spot.
How about video game playing pods? The new addition, PLAY2, has Amusement Pod Entertainment Centers, or apecs. You can reserve an apec and play PS3, Wii, or Xbox 360 games with your friends or against groups in other apecs. Or you can just hang out at the bar and watch people play in the apecs, or listen to the DJ. Seriously, this is a crazy great place.
It was rated “Best Sports Bar on the East Coast” by ESPN, and it lives up to it. They have “Beer Towers,” a three foot (or so) tall container of beer with a tap on it. It holds 120 ounces for $25 (domestic) or $30 (imported). It is ESPNZone without all the annoying glitz. It is your neighborhood bar with lots of makeup on, looking all hot at the club on a Friday night. You have to come here. Forget the arena. Just come here.
FANFARE Total: 27 (out of 35)
The lack of a neighborhood notwithstanding, the Wachovia Center is an overall fun place to see a game. Is it worth a special trip to Philadelphia just for that? Not even close. But if you are in town, it is a must stop. Well, Chickie’s and Pete’s is, anyway.