A proposed $2.5-billion development program aims to transform portions of the South Philadelphia Sports Complex into a more diverse, year-round community anchored by the site’s three major sports venues.

Announced Feb. 27 by Comcast Spectacor, owner and operator of the Wells Fargo Center, the program’s $700-million initial phase calls for construction of a 5,500-seat concert venue, a 250-key hotel and new dining and retail areas, all of which will be located on existing surface parking lots adjacent to the multi-purpose indoor arena. Construction is to begin “in the coming months,” Comcast Spectacor says, and could be completed as early as 2028.

Phase 1 also includes $12 million in upgrades to Xfinity Live!, the Sports Complex’s 12-year-old dining and entertainment district developed and operated by Comcast Spectator and The Cordish Cos. Set to begin construction later this year, that part of the project includes exterior and interior improvements, as well as enhancing Xfinity Live!’s outdoor plaza with built-in seating areas, terraces and landscaping to support game day activities, festivals and community events.

No contractor or design firm has been announced for the proposed phase-one elements. The plaza upgrades are to be completed in 2025 or early 2026, according to a Comcast Spectacor-Cordish Cos. statement, which noted that the partnership is committed to repeating the 45% minority and local participation achieved during the initial construction of Xfinity Live! on the site of the demolished Spectrum arena.

Over the next decade, Comcast Spectacor hopes to implement the plan’s second phase—development of more than 2,000 residential units along with retail, restaurants and green space on existing parking lots located next to Citizens Bank Park, which is owned by the City of Philadelphia. To move forward, Comcast Spectacor will need to secure development rights and additional stakeholder buy-in, and commit to constructing replacement parking facilities for the baseball stadium.

“Phase 2 presents an aspirational vision for creating a new live-work-play community in and around the existing sports and entertainment venues,” Comcast Spectacor Chairman and CEO Dan Hilferty said in a statement. “This placemaking approach has been implemented in major cities across the country, and we believe Philadelphia deserves it, too.”

Construction Competition

Also uncertain is whether Comcast Spectacor’s plans for the Sports Complex will be enough to entice the Philadelphia 76ers NBA team team to remain as the primary tenant of the 30-year-old Wells Fargo Center, which recently completed a four-year, $400-million upgrade that included interior renovations, new entrance canopies and massive exterior LED display boards totaling more than 10,500 sq ft.

In 2022, the team announced plans for a new 18,500-seat facility to partially replace an existing shopping mall located above an underground regional rail station Philadelphia’s City Center. Targeting a 2031 opening, the arena would anchor a $1.55-billion Gensler-designed mixed-use complex that would also include ground-floor restaurants and retail, and a 20-story, 395-unit residential tower. 

Vertical construction is currently scheduled to begin in 2028, provided the project passes muster with multiple city agencies, a process that began last fall with a master plan review by a multi-disciplinary civic design advisory committee. The proposal has also encountered resistance from residents and business owners of the nearby historic Chinatown neighborhood, amid fears of economic and social disruption. They also assert that the area would be better served by redeveloping the mall into more community-focused spaces.