Dispatches From Gritty’s Chaos Corner and More of What’s New at Wells Fargo Center
As the Flyers kick off their season at home, fans can expect gold-leaf cheesesteaks, an exclusive Stephen Starr restaurant, and even more mischief.
I’m a little dizzy, and there’s popcorn stuck in my hair. And now inflatable Gritty tubes have sprung up to flail about like we’re at a car dealership. No, this isn’t my fever dream journal; this is Gritty’s Chaos Corner.
Comcast Spectacor has put $400 million into “transforming” the Wells Fargo Center — the renovations include fan-facing amenities as well as the behind-the-scenes “event-level” changes, which we’ll get to another day — and as the Flyers played their home opener last night, fans got to see all the upgrades. “Every inch of this arena has been torn down and rebuilt into something so impressive,” said Wells Fargo Center president Phil Laws. There’s new food, seating, merch, and — my personal favorite addition — a section devoted to hardcore Gritty fans.
New for this season, Section 122 is now Gritty’s Chaos Corner, where the furry seven-foot-tall maniac will hold court, put on skits, play games, and attack fans with everything from silly string to popcorn to “caking wars.” Anything can happen, and fans are instructed to “keep their heads on a swivel.” Of course I was going to take all the quality time with Gritty I could get, so when he challenged me to put popcorn on my head and spin around, I was all in. I did not succeed, but I did make a mess. Later, he had a lucky kid bang his giant drum. It was a party.
Even if you’re not sitting in Gritty’s new lair, you’ll see Wells Fargo Center replaced all the seats, adjusting the sight lines for both hockey and basketball. Seats on the loge level have built-in phone chargers and resemble recliners.
But it’s not just the seats that have gotten kicked up a notch. There are a whole lot of new food options for your intermission excursions. At Section 107, you’ll find the Launch Test Kitchen, which will feature a rotating selection from local restaurants. First up is Han Dynasty, serving up lo mein, dumplings and more Szechuan-style favorites.
Another food item you’re sure to hear about is the 24stK, a short-rib cheesesteak that’s topped with truffle-cheese sauce and 24-karat gold leaf. You can buy one of those in Section 117 for $28, which, yes, is a lot for a cheesesteak, but honestly less than I expected one flecked with freaking gold to cost.
Of course, if you’re one of those people who thinks precious metals are for wearing, not eating, grab a “walking taco,” which you eat out of a Fritos bag just a couple sections over (104, 110 and 122). Fans can also procure elaborate milkshakes from Insomnia Cookies, Mexican street corn, and sandwiches that won’t set off metal detectors.
Last year, the Wells Fargo Center added eateries from Jose Garces and Marc Vetri to the club level. MVP (Marc Vetri Pizza), Garces Eats and Buena Onda are still accessible to those with club- or suite-level tickets, and they’ve also added some new dishes, including a seasonal butternut-squash pizza. Entering the high-profile chef game at WFC is Stephen Starr’s new spot, Adrian.
Named as an homage to Rocky, the high-end American-style restaurant sports old-school wood decor and deep-red banquettes — and serves a $95 Steak Balboa. Also on the menu? Oysters, Caesar salad and tuna tartare. Cocktails are $15, and the wine selection ranges from by-the-glass to a $325 Cayamus from Napa. Adrian is accessible to club- and suite-level ticket holders. Flyers and 76ers season-ticket holders — regardless of seat level — have the option of buying an Adrian membership, which starts at $250.
This is all coming as the Wells Fargo Center has become a battleground between owners Comcast Spectacor — who also own the Flyers — and the 76ers, who play there through at least 2031 but are campaigning to build their own arena away from the South Philly sports complex, in Market East. The fan experience has been upgraded, for sure, but a huge sticking point between the teams lies behind the scenes — and under the arena — at the event level. We’ll have all the details on those upgrades soon, so sit tight. And if you’re in the Chaos Corner, stay alert.