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July 20, 2023

Comcast Spectacor CEO takes aim at Sixers claims about scheduling disadvantage at Wells Fargo Center

The 76ers want their own arena, in part, to gain control of the calendar; Dan Hilferty says there is no scheduling advantage for the Flyers

Development Arenas
76ers Arena Updates Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

The Philadelphia 76ers are striving to build a new arena in Center City and move after their lease expires in 2031. Comcast Spectacor, which owns the South Philly arena, wants the Sixers to stay and possibly split ownership of the building.

As the 76ers try to build momentum for their proposed arena in Center City, team officials have explained that having their own home would allow the Sixers to schedule their NBA season free of the constraint of sharing a building with the Flyers.

David Adelman, one of the Sixers owners who also is leading the team's arena development project, has contended that being a tenant of Comcast Spectacor, which owns the Flyers, puts the Sixers at a scheduling disadvantage because of how the available dates at the Wells Fargo Center are divvied up. Comcast Spectacor CEO Dan Hilferty, in an interview this week, pushed back against this assertion.

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"Nobody has an advantage. And 98% of the events that we'd like to have here, we get here. But it's the one thing that does upset me about the rhetoric that's coming from the Sixers is that they're disadvantaged in that way" Hilferty, who is also the Flyers governor, said on Monday's episode of Crossing Broad's podcast "Snow The Goalie."

Adelman had shared his feelings about the scheduling process at the Wells Fargo Center — and what he believes are its inequities — during an episode of a different Crossing Broad podcast in June. He said once other scheduled concerts and events are factored in, and the remaining open dates are split with the Flyers, the 76ers are left with little flexibility.

"When you look at (our) schedule ... we play more 5-out-of-7 nights and more back to backs than anyone else in the league, on average," Adelman said. "We’ve been home once for Christmas the last 11 years, I think. The way the schedule works is the Flyers get their dates, the concerts get their dates, and then we get the rest. You don’t see us with a lot of weekend day games, but you see the Flyers with a lot of them."

Hilferty disputed this in his interview, and described a draft-like process involving the Sixers and Flyers where they choose among the available dates.

"I want be very clear about it. If you hear that, it's not true," Hilferty said. "What is true is that we have a fair, back-and-forth, shared approach to scheduling. Sometimes we win, sometimes (the Sixers) win — just based on whose turn it is."

Since Hilferty joined Comcast Spectacor in February, he has expressed his desire that the 76ers remain at the Wells Fargo Center, and he said it again during the podcast interview. He also has said he is open to an equal split of equity in the arena with the 76ers, with Comcast Spectacor continuing to manage the building, but Adelman has insisted the Sixers will not be playing at the Wells Fargo Center after their current lease expires in 2031.

The 76ers' lease at the Wells Fargo Center stipulates a scheduling meeting take place annually among the Flyers, 76ers and Comcast Spectacor officials. According to information provided to PhillyVoice by Comcast Spectacor, that meeting takes place in October to go over scheduling for the following year.

Each team gets identical calendars showing the dates of booked events and others that are anticipated. Some of these dates may become available later if the provisional events don't end up on the final calendar. In total, there are no fewer than 140 open days to be split up between the teams.

A Wells Fargo Center official explained that for the period where the two teams’ schedules overlap, the 76ers and the Flyers alternate selecting desired dates — with the 76ers choosing first — until all available dates a month are selected, then it's on to the next month and so on.

Each team's dates are sent to the NBA and NHL offices for final scheduling approvals. The lease also allows for the arena and the 76ers to trade non-Flyers dates if acceptable alternatives can be found. The lease specifically says that neither team should be given favorable treatment. The only contractually guaranteed dates are Black Friday, which goes to the Flyers, and the Friday prior to Thanksgiving that goes to the Sixers.

When Adelman and other 76ers officials talk about a scheduling disadvantage, they feel one of the causes of that is dates reserved by Comcast Spectacor for events like concerts and family entertainment, some of which are picked before the 140 potential dates for Sixers and Flyers games are released.

"At the end of the day, our lease terms detract from our ability to set the most competitive NBA schedule and we are committed to having our own building just like every other professional sports team in Philadelphia," the 76ers said in a statement to PhillyVoice earlier this week. "There is a good reason why Flyers, Eagles, Phillies, and Union all own their own building – it positions them for maximum control over their schedule, fan experience, and player experience."

The 76ers' privately funded, $1.3 billion arena would have 18,500 seats in a building that would occupy a portion of the existing Fashion District Philadelphia mall on Market Street between 10th and 11th streets. The arena, 76 Place, would sit along the southern boundary of Chinatown, which has lead to opposition among residents because of concerns about displacement, traffic and the future of the neighborhood.

In April, the city commissioned a study to assess the potential impact of a new arena in Center City. And since then, the Sixers have shared some of their own logistical plans and expectations for how the city would adjust to the changes in activity along East Market Street, a commercial corridor that Adelman has often said is dying and needs private investment. Team officials also said at the time that they expect they new arena would host events 150 nights per year.

This week, the city announced it has selected contractors for three studies that will analyze the economic, building design and community impacts of a Sixers arena. It came to light that at least two of these studies will be paid for by the 76ers, prompting critics to question whether the assessments can be independent and impartial under this arrangement. City officials and representatives for Sixers have said it is common practice to have developers fund studies for large, complex projects. And the Sixers say the consultants were chosen at the sole discretion of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., which will oversee the studies without influence from the team. 

Adelman has said he and Hilferty are good friends, but they disagree with one another about the arena issue. Hilferty has spoken about the Flyers and Sixers working together as partners, and his comments about the 76ers' arena proposal have generally reflected an effort to entice the team to stay, rather than antagonize the Sixers in their quest for a home of their own.

"We're both going to be successful if they move," Hilferty said the Crossing Broad podcast. "We're going to compete for business. We're competitors. We will do everything we can to win, as will they."