The Full Spectrum

An oral history

Mark Oliver Gebel, son of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey star Gunther Gebel-Williams: I was always with my father, performing. We knew from the past that if it was raining outside, we’d have to put our shoes up for the night, because water would come into our dressing room. I remember our farewell tour there in 1989. The applause was incredible. How much the people of Philadelphia loved my father — it was very special. On one of the columns, there’s a picture of my wife riding a very special elephant of my father’s. I’ll be sad to see it go.

Joe Frazier: I can’t understand why they’re closing it down. They must have some better ideas.

Peter Luukko, president and COO, Comcast-Spectacor: The Spectrum has been a very viable arena. But Ed had negotiated development rights into the deal when he was building the Wachovia Center, and eventually, these rights would expire. We were looking for something to do with the development, and that’s when we were approached by the Cordish company, and they came up with this really neat plan [for the Philly Live! entertainment complex that’s set to go on the site]. Knowing us, if we hadn’t met the Cordishes, we could justify keeping that building open forever. It’s Ed’s baby, and we all love it.

Bruce Springsteen, musician [during his two farewell Spectrum shows in April 2009]: This is the house of rock. This is the first arena we ever played. They don’t make arenas like this anymore. There is a democratic-ness to these old buildings. It’s a treat to really be here again and playing in this lovely lady of a building.

Mickey Hart, drummer, the Grateful Dead [prior to the Dead’s farewell shows in May 2009, as told to Comcast SportsNet]: The first thing is, the Spectrum sounds great. Arenas are not really made for sound. This one, by chance, turned out to be really unique and vibrant. It’s kind of a home away from home for us. We’ve played 57 shows here — sold-out — so it’s kind of our place, in a way. It’s sad to see it go.

Lauren Hart
: You can feel the voices in there. The building has its own music; it has its own sound. I sang at the last game there [the Phantoms, April 10, 2009], and as I was getting ready, I just saw all these moments flashing before me. Then I saw the banner unfurl: “GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD HOCKEY.” There was no better way to close the building.

Charles Barkley: It was a dump when I got there in ’84. I’m glad they’re tearing it down. I’d do it for free. I’ll push the damn button.

Jon Bon Jovi: I love sitting up in my box at the Wachovia. It’s a beautiful place, and it sounds great, but would you rather have a muscle car or some new Lexus? I think most guys would rather have the good old Chevy Malibu convertible. It’s a little bit beat-up, but it’s a driver. She kind of spits and fires, and that’s what the Spectrum was.

Pierre Robert: There are no luxury boxes there. No matter your economic background, you’re all in it together. There’s no place for the elite to escape from the masses.

Ed Snider: People would come by [the owner’s box]. I’d shake hands, and somebody would say, “My seat’s broken.” I’d write it down. I had a phone here. I’d call and say, “Such-and-such seat is broken.” People would look to see my reaction to a penalty. The interaction with the fans was great.

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