IN 1967, ED Snider was toiling for the Eagles, Veterans Stadium was still just a blueprint, and Philadelphia was a three-sport town. Everything changed that year when Snider decided to bring ice hockey to Broad Street and build a $12 million home for his Flyers — the Spectrum. After surviving five decades, three major championships, thousands of concerts, one hole in the roof, wrestling matches (of Hulks, bears, and mud-covered ladies) and millions of vocal fans, the arena known as “America’s Showplace” will close for good this year. Here, we present the memories of those who helped turn a squat concrete bunker by the Navy Yard into one of this city’s greatest cultural treasures.
Ed Snider, Comcast-Spectacor chairman: I was a vice president of the Eagles in charge of operations, and we were working on building the Vet with the city. It was 1966, and I heard that Jack Kent Cooke [owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Redskins] wanted to get a National Hockey League franchise and build an arena in L.A. I had been to a hockey game at the old Boston Garden and thought it was a fabulous sport. The original six teams were extremely successful, and I said, “I think Philadelphia would be a great place for a hockey franchise.” So I met with the NHL expansion committee, and talked to the president of City Council, who was a South Philadelphia resident, about putting an arena on the parking lot where the Vet was going, and increasing revenues for the city. He was very enthusiastic. We went to Mayor Tate, and he said, “Let’s make this deal.”
Lou Scheinfeld, former Spectrum vice president: In April of ’66, I left the newspaper business to work for “the new sports arena,” which was the working name we had at that time. I don’t think there were any blueprints or funding.
Ed Snider: We got all the arena financing done, and I had to wire $2 million to Montreal, where the NHL was gathering the funds for the six new teams. The only blackout I remember in the history of Philadelphia happened at exactly that time, so we couldn’t wire the funds. They’re waiting in Montreal, saying, “What the hell is going on? We haven’t heard from Philadelphia.” After an hour or so of sweating the thing out, our bank figured out how to route the money through New York.
Lou Scheinfeld: We broke ground in June or July of ’66, and we were to open in September of 1967. The site [an empty, unpaved lot] was the dumps. It was used as an unofficial driving course during the day and for intercourse at night. We dug up a few thousand condoms, believe me!
Ed Snider: Only 11 months of construction. You can’t do that today. The new building took six years.
Lou Scheinfeld: The sentiment was to name it Keystone Arena. I thought that was not the way to go. So one day, the building was about halfway complete, and I walked through with our graphic designer, and we threw out names — spectacular stadium, splendid, supercalifragilistic. The name “spectrum” popped up. I looked it up in the dictionary: “Images that form displays, colors emanating from the prism; anything colorful under the sun.” I thought, “Wow, that’s us. We’re presenting everything colorful under the sun.”
Stan Hochman, Philadelphia Daily News writer [from a 1960s column]: It sounds like they’ve reached too far in groping for something unique. There are no Orangutan Dry Cleaners in the phone book, either, and orangutans are big and bold and colorful.