For Springsteen concertgoers, an early look at Xfinity Live!

Comcast-Spectacor employees are treated to a preopening event at the $60 million sports-themed entertainment and dining district Xfinity Live developed by Comcast-Spectacor and Cordish Cos. ED HILLE / Staff Photographer
Comcast-Spectacor employees are treated to a preopening event at the $60 million sports-themed entertainment and dining district Xfinity Live developed by Comcast-Spectacor and Cordish Cos. ED HILLE / Staff Photographer
Posted: March 28, 2012

Got tickets for Bruce Springsteen's concerts at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday and Thursday? They'll get you into Xfinity Live Philadelphia before and after the shows, too - a sneak preview of the $60 million entertainment and restaurant venue in advance of its official opening Friday.

Its developers call Xfinity Live the "fourth stadium experience" - a wave of sight, sound, and smell including a 32-foot-long Sony LED high-definition television, a phalanx of smaller monitors, and the aroma of dishes emanating from diverse eateries coming together at the heart of the city's stadium complex.

"When the guest walks into that center marketplace area, I think they will be hit by this incredible sensory experience," said Reed Cordish, vice president of Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., which joined forces with Comcast-Spectactor to create Xfinity Live on the site of the former Spectrum. "We hope that it's reminiscent of when someone walks into the stadium and sees the lights and the field, and feels the rush. We hope to create that feeling."

Peter Luukko, president and chief operating officer of Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the Flyers and the Wells Fargo Center, home arena for the hockey team and the 76ers, is just as excited. He said his company came across Cordish Cos.' handiwork - more than a half-dozen retail, dining, and entertainment districts across the country, including Power Plant Live at Baltimore's Inner Harbor, and, more recently, Atlantic City Live - when it was looking for a partner.

That 8.4 million visitors head to the stadium complex each year for sports events, concerts, and other performances was a built-in advantage, said Luukko, and putting together a place that could capture them before and after such events was the goal.

Officially, Xfinity Live debuts with a ribbon-cutting at 4 p.m. Friday - exactly 494 days after the Spectrum got the wrecking-ball treatment.

But not all the Spectrum is lost. Dasher boards and center-court pieces from the legendary arena were used to decorate the Mitchell & Ness sports-memorabilia store that sits next to the Spectrum Grill.

And some of the Spectrum's brick facade is seen in the outdoor plaza, which also features three iconic statues formerly housed at the arena - depictions of Kate Smith, Julius Erving, and Gary Dornhoefer.

Of Xfinity Live, Luukko said: "It's really six different concepts to take advantage of the warm climate, and the indoors when it's cold."

Those "concepts" are: Spectrum Grill, a high-end steak house; Victory Beer Hall, fashioned after a German beer hall with long picnic tables; NBC Sports Arena, with its giant high-def TV; PBR Bar and Grill, featuring Tex Mex cuisine and a mechanical bull for nighttime rides; and the Broad Street Bullies Pub, with 48 beers on tap, burgers and wings, Flyers memorabilia, and a stage for bands.

The spoke in the middle, known as Philly Marketplace, will feature the Original Philadelphia Cheesesteak Co., Nick's Roast Beef, Chickie's and Pete's, and a Phillips Seafood raw bar, among others. Outdoor patios can be found at PBR Bar and Grill, Broad Street Bullies Pub, and Victory Brew Hall.

Location is an advantage, Luukko said: Xfinity Live is accessible from I-95 and I-76 and is "less than a half-hour from Delaware, just over the Walt Whitman Bridge from New Jersey, seven minutes from Center City, and an easy drive from the suburbs."

"We really see connecting Wells Fargo and Xfinity Live," he said. "It's going to promote the Flyers and Sixers and all other events."

NBC Sports Arena has the centerpiece of Xfinity Live - that 32-foot TV, billed by its developers as the largest at any sports bar or restaurant in the region - and intended to give sports fans a view so clear and crisp that, well, they just might think they're at the game.

To test just how good that sports-viewing experience is, Xfinity Live will have quite the inaugural-weekend lineup: The Flyers are at home 1 p.m. Saturday against the Ottawa Senators and play the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road at 12:30 Sunday; the Sixers are at home at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks; and on Sunday, the Philly Soul arena-football team plays at home against the Cleveland Gladiators. Not to mention, there's the NCAA Final Four basketball games Saturday.

"We're ready," Reed Cordish said, adding that the complex is geared toward families in the daytime and to adults after 9 p.m.

Xfinity Live will be open 365 days a year. Certain portions will be open for lunch, with the rest open by 4 p.m. and most attractions staying open until 2 a.m. Parking will be free on nonevent nights, starting Friday. On event days, it will be free one hour after the start of the final event.

On Wednesday, employees from a half-dozen restaurants at Power Plant Live in Baltimore will board buses and head north on I-95, both to welcome fans at the pre-Springsteen-concert party and to usher in their new sister complex.

Scott Altpeter, a bar manager at Joe Squared, a pizzeria that leases space at Power Plant Live, thinks Xfinity Live will be a draw, just like its counterpart to the south.

"It's a huge attraction here," he said earlier this month as families packed the Baltimore eatery for lunch.

"I think the one in Philly will do great. It will keep that crowd in that area and draw more development."

On Friday, as part of the opening-day festivities, Third Eye Blind will perform a free concert at 8 p.m. at the outdoor plaza at Xfinity Live, with parking free. There will be free live music all-day Saturday, featuring Mr. Greengenes, Burnt Sienna, and other regional bands.

"We're going to be active day and night and have something for everybody," Cordish said.

Contact Suzette Parmley at 856-779-3844 or sparmley@phillynews.com.

|
|
|
|
|