The Tenants Can't Lose New Arena Offers Big Benefits To Both The Flyers And Sixers

Posted: June 11, 1991

Luxury-box income and increased seating provided by a new arena would be important to the Flyers because, in the NHL, gate receipts make up the bulk of a team's income.

But the Sixers, who play in the TV revenue-based NBA, also will benefit

from the deal that was announced yesterday to build a $100 million arena in South Philadelphia, even though they will still be tenants of Spectacor, the Flyers' parent company.

Sixers owner Harold Katz seemed to be in excellent humor during the press conference at the Hershey Hotel, at one point quipping, "Harold Katz Stadium," when a questioner asked what the new arena would be called. Katz, whose discomfort over his Spectrum lease started the arena search almost three years ago, already has reaped one benefit: In return for agreeing to stick with the Flyers and not seeking his own arena deal, Katz was given a revised, more favorable lease at the present building.

In the new building, which officials hope will open in the fall of 1994, Katz will share in arena advertising revenues, along with concessions and parking, he said yesterday. Currently, Katz gets no money from those areas. Also, Sixers business manager Gerry Ryan said yesterday, the drastic increase in luxury seating will help the Sixers keep pace economically with other NBA teams. It has been estimated that the Detroit Pistons make $15 million a year off 180 luxury boxes. At the Spectrum, income on 14 luxury boxes is estimated at about $2 million a year.

"Currently, we have just a small percentage of the boxes that will be available with the new building," Ryan said. "Less than 300 luxury seats."

The new arena will feature two types of luxury seating: 78 executive suites seating between 12 and 21 people apiece, and 2,500 of what are being called ''superbox" seats, individual seats on a special level, with their own concourse. Since no prices have been announced, it's hard to say exactly how much money this seating will raise, but it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the demand for luxury seating was a key element in the teams' desire for a new building.

"We have very little box income, from luxury seating," Flyers president Jay Snider said. "Everywhere you go in the league, they have vastly more of that than we do. To be able to compete, this will definitely help us, particularly since we don't see national TV revenue."

For basketball, the new arena's capacity can be adjusted from 16,000 to 21,000, apparently because the Sixers were concerned that an unattractive date with, say, the Indiana Pacers, might draw a crowd of 10,000 or so that would make the new building look virtually empty. The Spectrum seats 18,168 for basketball. Hockey capacity, currently 17,382, would be fixed at 19,607 in the new building. The Flyers rarely fall more than a few hundred tickets short of a sellout, and according to Snider, they currently have about 15,500 season ticketholders, so the half-full building scenario didn't concern them.

Both teams expect benefits that go beyond increased revenues. Snider said the Flyers are considering building an ice rink in the concourse that is to link the new building with the old building. If that happens, he said, the team might move its practice and training facilities to Broad and Pattison. Currently, the Flyers train at The Coliseum in Voorhees, N.J., and several team officials - including general manager Russ Farwell - maintain offices both at the Spectrum and in Voorhees.

Ryan said the Sixers will be able to move their offices from Veterans Stadium to the Spectrum complex, and for the first time, they will have a permanent locker room, to which they presumably could add such amenities as a whirlpool. Currently, the Flyers have a permanent locker room at the Spectrum, equipped with a whirlpool. The Sixers, Ryan said, "pack up our locker room after every game." Ryan said the Sixers still plan to practice at St. Joseph's University, as far as he knows.

The new building also could make scheduling easier for both teams, since the plan calls for the old building to remain open. Presumably, situations such as the Flyers' annual mandatory two-week road trip right after Christmas to accommodate a Spectrum ice show will be eased; the ice show can run in the Spectrum, while the Sixers and Flyers play in the new arena.

If the new arena goes forward as planned, both teams also will benefit from avoiding the controversy a move to New Jersey would have created. Both teams are committed to staying in Philadelphia through the year 2020, and Snider clearly was glad to have avoided tampering with his fan base.

"It's a big relief for me personally," he said. "The Flyers, we haven't performed the way we'd like to the last few years, there's been some disappointment in the fans. I really wasn't up for another disappointment."

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