ESPOSITO: Spectrum’s history makes it hard to say goodbye

Nick Esposito

Goodbyes are difficult. Just ask Brett Favre. He’s been trying to say goodbye for the last 10 years, and he still can’t let go. Over the past few years the city of Philadelphia has had a goodbye that has seemed inevitable. The dreaded day came on an exciting weekend at the Philadelphia Sports Complex that featured a basketball game, two hockey games, a football game, two rock concerts and two World Series games. The Philadelphia faithful has to let go of a landmark that have brought them so many great moments.

The Philadelphia Spectrum opened its doors in 1967 and was quickly dubbed “America’s Showplace.” It was the first modern arena in the city of Philadelphia, and the first of its kind in the country. The Spectrum was built primarily to accommodate the Philadelphia Flyers. It proved to be a great home for the orange and black as well as the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers. Besides the thousands of professional basketball and hockey games that were played there, the Spectrum served as a theater for hundreds of other events, such as roller derby, opera, minor league hockey, lacrosse, soccer, arena football, ballet, professional wrestling, ice dancing and, of course, the circus.

The Spectrum is also known as the “House that Rock Built.” It has seen over 2,300 concerts playing anyone from Frank Sinatra to Destiny’s Child. It was a venue that saw one of Elvis’s final shows, 53 Grateful Dead concerts and routine appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Yes and Billy Joel, as well as rock ‘n’ roll royalty Queen and Prince. When it was all said and done the Spectrum heard close to 1,000 performers who rocked so loud that Philadelphia blew the roof off the Spectrum.

So much has happened in this 42-year span that saying goodbye is not going to be an easy task. At the end, when it is all over, it is common to think back to the beginning and relive all of the memories. There have been so many of them that I am not allotted nearly enough space to relive them all for you.

I could mention some of the memories that the Flyers had in the Spectrum. They would include the time in 1974, when the Flyers brought home the city’s first championship by defeating the Buffalo Sabres on their home ice. We could also talk about Ron Hextall’s goal (the first goal scored by a goalie in NHL history). Or we could relive the shivers that everyone got when Kate Smith sang “God Bless America” before classic Flyer wins. But no moment tops the time the USSR came to Philadelphia on the last stop of their NHL tour. The Russians dominated every NHL team, winning every game until they came to Philadelphia. The Flyers manhandled them in every facet of the game, garnering the respect not only for the city but for the country as well.

On the hardwoods, the Sixers played many seasons of competitive basketball and they too captured a title in 1983. The Sixers retired the numbers of Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone, Hal Greer and Charles Barkley in the Spectrum. In the late ’70s the Spectrum was dubbed “The Doctor’s Office” for the sensational Julius Irving whose windmill dunk is one of the most memorable in the history of the game. Even the public announcer Dave Zinkoff entertained the crowd night in and night out with his dry humor. Known as Zinkisms, his phrases always gave people a chuckle: “There is no smoking in the seating area. If you have to smoke, please do not exhale.”

There were countless other great moments such as Christian Laettner’s buzzer beater, Bob Knight and Indiana’s undefeated season and the Philadelphia Phantoms Calder Cup Championships. Even Villanova had a pretty good run at “America’s Showplace” including last year’s 10 point slaying of Pitt to close out the building. All of these moments have contributed to the soul of this town, and that is why it is so hard to say good-bye.

But the heart of the Spectrum is not at center ice and isn’t under the basket or in the rafters. It is found in the stands where kids develop their passion for sports from their parents. I went to my first sporting event ever at the Spectrum. I watched the Flyers pass, shoot, score and fight their way through season after season, while the Sixers taught me how to play tough basketball. I was fortunate enough to play on the ice with my youth team, as well as broadcast the final college basketball game for the radio. Without a doubt it was at the Spectrum where I developed my love for sports.

For the building where Dr. J took flight, the Broad Street Bullies were born and my love for sports was realized I would like to thank it and all of the people over the years that have made this Mecca for mayhem one of the best venues in sports.


Nick Esposito is a junior communication major from Skillman, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].