Thousands bid farewell as Philly Spectrum razing begins

Bill Wyche of Germantown with a '70s-era poster of Sixers star Julius Erving. "I was born and raised in South Philadelphia," Wyche said. "We watched them build the Spectrum."
Bill Wyche of Germantown with a '70s-era poster of Sixers star Julius Erving. "I was born and raised in South Philadelphia," Wyche said. "We watched them build the Spectrum."
Posted: November 24, 2010

They came for the discount hot dogs and sodas and to watch a wrecking ball smash through Philadelphia's beloved Spectrum, but more than anything, they came for the memories.

Several thousand sports fans - many wearing the colors of the Flyers and 76ers - and music lovers who attended concerts there gathered Tuesday in a parking lot across from the South Philadelphia arena to share recollections.

Amid a block-party atmosphere that included carnival-style games and the retro-rock band Kindred Spirit, they listened to some of Philadelphia's sports icons reflect on their great times at the Spectrum.

About noon, Sixers great Julius Erving and Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, and other retired Flyers took to the lectern amid loud cheers.

Bill Wyche, a retired postal worker from Germantown, rode the Broad Street subway to the Spectrum hauling three large 1970s-vintage posters of Erving and other NBA greats.

"I'm going to try to get Dr. J to sign them," Wyche said, adding that he remembered seeing many Sixers games and shows at the Spectrum.

"I was born and raised in South Philadelphia, so we would come down here all the time," he said. "We watched them build the Spectrum."

Wyche said he later brought his sons and grandsons to the arena: "I used to take them to see monster-truck shows."

Brothers Darien, 38, and Byron Gans, 39, carried two huge pairs of white sneakers with red trim that they said had been worn by Sixers legends.

"These are Dr. J's game shoes he wore in the '70s," said Darien Gans, holding a pair of high-tops.

"And this pair was Moses Malone's," said Byron Gans, a pair of low-tops slung over his shoulder. The brothers said they were co-owners of the Shoe Kings store in Camden.

Asked how they acquired the shoes, Darien Gans said, "I'm a collector. We get them from different people."

He said he wanted to give Erving a pair of the champion's former sneakers, and "I also want him to sign a poster and a pair of shoes for me."

"This is about being a part of what we do," said Byron Gans, adding that he and his brother were raised in Philadelphia and were die-hard Sixers fans.

Staffing one of several vending tables, LaToya Dalmida, an employee of Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the Spectrum and the Wells Fargo Center, was taking orders for commemorative Spectrum bricks at a brisk pace.

"We're selling lots of them," Dalmida said of the bricks, which cost nearly $50 with shipping and handling. "We had a line even before we set up this morning." (The bricks and other Spectrum memorabilia can be ordered at www.rememberthespectrum.com)

A man who identified himself as Styxxx, 58, a printer from the Nicetown section, said he had attended dozens of rock concerts at the Spectrum.

Sporting a well-worn Rolling Stones T-shirt, Styxxx said: "I was here for my first concert. I came to see Rod Stewart."

He was carrying a scrapbook thick with vintage concert photos and ticket stubs.

"I saw the Stones here in 1972," he said. "This was the place to be."

After speeches by Mayor Nutter, Erving, Clarke, and Parent, an orange wrecking ball went to work, drawing ooohs and aaaahs from the crowd.

The ball struck the building about two dozen times, ripping a relatively small hole in the brick facade and smashing through a bank of smoked-glass windows.

Officials said the demolition would take about four months.

"At this pace," said Ron Pearson, a Wilmington resident who wore a Grateful Dead T-shirt, "it's going to take nine years to knock the place down."


Contact staff writer Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or vclark@phillynews.com.

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