Nov 242010
The Spectrum demolition

The Spectrum demolition

November 24 Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Bob Ford:

“By 1 p.m. Tuesday, a good half-hour after an orange, four-ton wrecking ball began tapping the south side of the Spectrum – first gently, then grimly – the hole in this piece of Philadelphia sports history was still not much bigger than the ones Darryl Dawkins left in a couple of backboards way back when.

The wrecking ball was mostly for show, anyway, which was fitting for a place that was all about putting on a good show. It served as the tolling bell to close a ceremony that marked the beginning of the demolition process of this city’s first “modern” sports venue.

Ed Snider spoke, Bob Clarke spoke, Mayor Nutter spoke, Julius Erving spoke and spoke and spoke. They brought essentially the same message, which was, “Things that mattered happened here.” In the end, the “things” were more important than the “here,” because the Spectrum was an unremarkable architectural structure, but nevertheless that is where they happened.

Once the show wrapped up on Tuesday and the small crowd of curiosity seekers dispersed, the wrecking ball stopped its slow, Pat Burrell swing and the real work was given over to an enormous mechanical claw that will gouge and bite the Spectrum with greater efficiency. On a somewhat somber day, it wouldn’t have been appropriate to end the commemorating speeches – assuming Doc has finished by now – and then watch the building get attacked by something out of a Japanese monster movie. The claw will do its work without fanfare, and soon enough the Spectrum will be nothing but rubble.

Snider said he wasn’t going to stick around for the wrecking ball show and he didn’t, climbing into a car and leaving before the first blow was struck. The Comcast-Spectacor chairman said he was too emotional about losing the Spectrum, although he will sell you a brick if you send in a few bucks.

The business side of things has to be served, and that is what finally got the Spectrum. It had been in use for 42 years, and things were starting to go. Was it worth putting in new electrical and plumbing systems and other necessary infrastructure improvements for an outdated building that was used merely for overflow or small revenue events? “Not really,” was the answer, and as much as Snider might regret the reality of the decision, he was the one who made it.

Tuesday’s ceremony was more anti-climax than climax. The Spectrum has been closing so long, it might have been the Benny Goodman Orchestra that played the farewell concert. There were a lot of sentimental “lasts” – the last hockey game, the last basketball game, the last concert, the last guy to throw up in a restroom sink. They killed it softly and slowly, then let the looters inside – for $25 a pop – to cart out the detritus of broken red chairs and cracked signs reading, “EXIT.””

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