Rendell recalls helping Wing Bowl go big-time

Posted: January 29, 2013

This morning on 94 WIP, cohost Al Morganti introduced "the man responsible for Wing Bowl being in the Big House" - Ed Rendell.

"How prominent in my obituary is it going to be that I moved Wing Bowl to the big stadium?" Rendell asked, referring to what is now called the Wells Fargo Center.

The popularity of the annual event - scheduled for Friday - has exploded since its debut in 1993 featured just competitors in a hotel ballroom. By Wing Bowl IV, people were being turned away from an overflowing Electric Factory, while the area was beset by parking nightmares, Morganti recalled.

Rendell, mayor of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2000, was an early supporter, presenting the winner's trophy for several years, starting with Wing Bowl II.

He suggested the first big move for the 1998 Wing Bowl.

The city had the right to reserve 10 dates a year at the South Philly arenas, and community groups weren't using them, so he proposed a deal with WIP.

Morganti remembers thinking that was crazy, that the Spectrum might have thousands of empty seats.

Au contraire.

Two years later, Wing Bowl moved to the First Union Center - "the Big House."

"It was unbelievable," Morganti said. "Almost from the day we opened in the Big House, we packed them in."

It was soon gaining national celebrity, drawing coverage from the likes of the Good Morning America and the New York Times, and getting promoted by tourism agencies as a reason to come to Philadelphia in midwinter.

"It's been one of the four or five things that different Philadelphia from other cities," said Rendell.

Even Chip Kelly made mention of Wing Bowl in early sessions with the local media.

Rendell, author of A Nation of Wusses, said he had a tip for the new Eagles coach:

"I said to Chip Kelly, if you go to Wing Bowl, watch out for projectile vomit."

Rendell shares more advice for Kelly in his latest column for the Daily News' SportWeek.

Morganti joked about Rendell's son, Jesse, being the actual writer, and the ex-governor said he and Jesse disagreed about the final line: "So, welcome to Philadelphia, Chip, we hope we are just as excited about you being our coach this time next year."

"I wanted to give Chip two or three years," Rendell said.

"Oh, come on," scoffed WIP's Rhea Hughes.

"Have we become a city of wusses?" Morganti asked.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or

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