By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
In 1966, the city of Philadelphia was granted a franchise in the NHL as part of the expansion era. With hockey coming to Philadelphia, Ed Snider needed a home for his new franchise and ground broke on June 1, 1966 on the Spectrum.
Just over a year later on Sept. 30, 1967, the Spectrum was open for business, hosting its first event, the Quaker City Jazz Festival. The two-day concert took place on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 and the first night of the event was delayed by 55 minutes due to traffic tie-ups in the parking lots. The last act of the night finished at 3 a.m. as a result. The next day, a crowd of 17,500 fans attended the Quaker City Jazz Festival, marking the largest indoor audience in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania history.
The first sporting event to take place in the Spectrum came on Oct. 17, 1967, a boxing event that featured a Joe Frasier vs. Tony Doyle card.
On Oct. 18, 1967, the official dedication of the Spectrum took place and the Sixers played their first game in the Spectrum, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers, 103-87.
The Flyers played their first home game in the Spectrum the next night against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 19, 1967. They had played the first three games in franchise history on the road, securing their first win, a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues, the previous night.
The game was scoreless through two periods before Bill Sutherland scored at 2:59 of the third to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. The lone goal held up as Doug Favell stopped all 21 shots the Penguins took in the win.
For the next 29 seasons, the Flyers called the Spectrum home, before the concept of a new state-of-the-art arena came to be and the then-named CoreStates Center was built in time for the 1996-97 season.
In the final regular-season game at the Spectrum on April 11, 1996, the Flyers defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 3-2, to claim the Atlantic Division title. That extended the Flyers time in the Spectrum for a playoff run and the Flyers won two of three games on home ice in the first round on the way to a six-game series win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference quarter-final.
The Flyers bowed out in the Eastern Conference semi-final that year, losing to the Florida Panthers in six games. The final game at the Spectrum came on May 12, 1996, when the Flyers lost in Game 5 to the Panthers, 2-1, in double overtime. Eric Lindros scored the final goal for the Flyers in the building. The final NHL goal in the Spectrum went to Panthers forward Mike Hough at 8:05 of the second overtime.
Following the Flyers time at the Spectrum, the building remainder open and hosted the AHL’s Philadelphia Phantoms, the NISL’s Philadelphia Kixx and the Arena Football League’s Philadelphia Soul, as well as concert events.
On July 14, 2008, Ed Snider announced that the Spectrum would close permanently and torn down to make room at the South Philadelphia Sports Complex for a proposed retail, dining and entertainment hub, then known as Philly Live! and now known as xFinity Live! The Phantoms played one final season in the Spectrum and the Flyers played two preseason games in the building to commemorate the years the franchise spent in the Spectrum.
The first preseason game was against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sept. 27, 2008. Braydon Coburn and Joffrey Lupul scored power-play goals early in the first and Mike Richards added a short-handed goal at 19:19 to open up a 3-0 Flyers lead in that game. Carolina got a goal from Matt Murley with one second left in the first to get on the board and cut the lead to one at 4:33 of the second with a goal by Patrick Eaves. Richards scored at the 4:42 mark of the third, once again shorthanded, to cap the scoring in the 4-2 win for the Flyers.
The Flyers also played an exhibition game against the Phantoms on Oct. 7, 2008.
Following the sports seasons, the final events at the Spectrum were a series of concerts, notably from acts who had regularly played and sold out the Spectrum over the years. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played a pair of shows on April 28 and 29, 2009, but returned on Oct. 13, 14, 19 and 20 for their final Spectrum shows. On Oct. 23, a group of Philadelphia-area acts, including The Hooters, Todd Rundgren and Hall & Oates headlined a concert called the “Last Call.” The remaining members of the Grateful Dead played their final set of Spectrum shows on May 1 and 2.
The final event at the Spectrum was a series of shows by Pearl Jam on Oct. 27, 28, 30 and 31.
The demolition of the Spectrum didn’t begin until Nov. 8, 2010, over a year after the final event in the building. The demolition started with internal work taking place before a public “wrecking ball ceremony” on Nov. 23, 2010. Unlike neighboring Veterans Stadium, which was imploded using explosives and took just 62 seconds to be demolished, the demolition process for the Spectrum took approximately six months.
Now nearly a decade after demolition, the Spectrum memories still remain. Since then, the Wells Fargo Center — which has undergone numerous name changes over the years — has now been the Flyers and Sixers home, as well as a venue for concerts and other sporting events, for 24 years. But there is nothing quite like America’s Showplace, the building the Ed Snider helped to build to house professional sports and entertainment events in Philadelphia.