A New Lease Is Reported For Sixers

Posted: September 13, 1990

The first tangible sign of progress in negotiations toward a new sports arena in the Philadelphia area will be announced today, when Spectacor and the 76ers finally become long-term partners.

According to a source close to the negotiations, a 30-year lease has been signed between the two parties, formally ending a threat by Sixers owner Harold Katz to take his team to a new arena by himself.

With the Sixers in tow as tenants, Spectacor, which owns the Flyers, can move forward in identifying the site for the arena it will build. The choice has long been narrowed to the Camden waterfront or the land where JFK Stadium now stands. The source indicated that a decision could be announced within two weeks.

The Sixers and Flyers now play at the Spectrum, a 23-year-old facility in South Philadelphia managed by Spectacor. Katz, who bought the Sixers in 1981, sought a new arena as a means of escaping what he felt was an unacceptable lease.

The new lease agreement provides the Sixers with revenues from advertising, parking, concessions and luxury suites. Spectacor also has modified the Spectrum lease until a new building opens.

Although the announcement of the new lease between Spectacor and the Sixers had been expected for some time, it was delayed by minor haggles over the language of the contract.

The delays that have slowed the identification of a new arena site are not nearly so minor. New Jersey has put an attractive financial package on the table for Spectacor to consider. Philadelphia has struggled to make final its proposal. Spectacor has waited, thus far patiently.

Spectacor officials had predicted that a decision would be announced by Labor Day, but that, like other predictions made during the long process, proved unreliable.

One distraction in the last two weeks for Spectacor was the lease announced Tuesday that ties the NFL Raiders to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for 20 years. The Coliseum is managed by Spectacor Management Group, which is half- owned and directed by Spectacor.

If Spectacor has been patient with Philadelphia and the beleaguered administration of Mayor Goode, it has been equally patient with Katz.

Katz, a self-made millionaire, grew frustrated with the pace of negotiations during the 14 months since his threat to jump to New Jersey became public.

Spectacor and Katz entered into an occasionally uneasy alliance last September. Each side agreed that the Philadelphia area - particularly the corporate community - could not support two major arenas.

Earlier this year, Katz criticized Spectacor, and specifically its owner, Ed Snider, for what he perceived to be foot-dragging in the negotiations. He chided Snider for having expressed strong emotional ties to Philadelphia but for failing to either act upon them or look beyond them.

"If he's such a great guy and so emotional to Philadelphia, let's sign in Philadelphia," Katz said at the Feb. 1 news conference. "Let's get it going. I'm ready to stay in Philadelphia. Make me an offer. Tell me my deal. I don't even know what my deal is."

Seven months later, Katz has his deal. Still unknown, however, is where it will lead him and Spectacor.

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