The sports world gave up another one of its landmark venues to the way of progress today as The Philadelphia Spectrum felt the crash of the wrecking ball while several of the men who filled it with memories, including Julius Erving and Bernie Parent, watched the destruction from a safe distance. This 47-year old warhorse ends a distinguished career as one of the most versatile sports and music arenas ever built.
Living up to its name, The Spectrum was home to numerous Philadelphia sports franchises including the 76ers and Flyers. The Flyers won their first Stanley Cup in 1974 on the Spectrum’s ice, playing in the Stanley Cup Finals a total of six time while tenants of the place. The 76ers brought the NBA Finals there four times and won it in 1983.
The Spectrum’s contributions to college basketball were enormous. The Spectrum served as the site for countless games between Philly’s Big Five teams, hosted several conference tournaments (usually the Atlantic 10), NCAA regionals, and even a couple of Final Fours. Indiana backers should feel especially mournful today, since the two F4′s that were held there were won by Hoosier squads coached by Bobby Knight. Kent Benson led the 1976 IU squad to a defeat of conference rivals Michigan in the national title game in the arena, cementing that Hoosier team’s place as the last college hoops team to finish a season unbeaten. Isiah Thomas was the MOP of the 1981 Indiana side that locked up the school’s fourth championship by beating North Carolina.
But if you’re talking about college basketball at the Spectrum, the conversation begins and ends with the game that requires no introduction. Kentucky fans, look away. Duke supporters, start caressing that 1992 championship trophy…
While we have no documentation of it, we would not be surprised to hear later that a small group of Kentucky fans who didn’t go to Maui this week were seen partying in a nearby cordoned area, toasting with champagne and bourbon and even bidding for the right to hit the switch that dropped the wrecking ball.
There’s one final note about the building that our fellow album rock fans will find interesting. On June 29th, 1977, Pink Floyd played a show there in which lead singer and bassist Roger Waters was suffering from terrible stomach cramps and had to have a injection of medicine — “just a little pin prick,” if you will — to keep him going through the show (it didn’t work, by the way). Waters eventually told Rolling Stone it was “the longest two hours of my life.” Later, he would use the memory of performing while sick and with the injected medicine on board to inspire a popular little tune called “Comfortably Numb.”
In that spirit, we hope the demolishers looked inside and asked “Is there anybody in there? Is there anyone home?” before they fired up the wrecking ball today. To The Spectrum, thank you for all you did for us — we’ll never forget you.