In its inaugural year of 1996, when the CoreStates Center opened to hard rockers AC/DC and The Who, 80 percent of the sports fans and concert-goers walked up to the arena’s box office off South Broad Street and bought tickets. CoreStates staffed the 20 windows that had the feel of well-guarded bank teller windows. Some days, the box office’s safe bulged with $250,000 in cash.
Then came the internet.
In 2018, only 15 percent of the 2.6 million folks who bought tickets for shows and games at the renamed Wells Fargo Center did so as walk-ins. Traffic waned at the box office while online ticket purchasing surged. On a typical night, the Wells Fargo Center staffs about half the 20 windows, with much less cash parked in the safe, said general manager Mike Scanlon.
Comcast Spectacor will tear out the ticket windows and the wall behind them, opening the area to a market of about 4,500 square feet that will include a grab-and-go beer mart and other food.
Comcast Spectacor hasn’t given up on a box office. A smaller one that looks more like a hotel lobby, with only one glassed-in window, will be built next to the VIP entrance on the Wells Fargo Center’s north side. The roof of the new box office will be a terrace that is reachable from the Cadillac Grille on the second floor, with vistas of Center City for beer and cocktail sippers.
This summer’s renovations will be the costliest of the multi-year, $250 million project and will look to transform the ground-level main concourse area, Comcast Spectacor officials said. The project began when Philadelphia hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2016, but did not begin in earnest with big projects until last summer. It will likely continue for two more years.
The Comcast-owned arena manager owns the Flyers and the Wells Fargo Center, and recently announced it would construct an eight-story office building on one of the arena parking lots, near Xfinity Live!
“We are opening everything up and tearing down walls,” Valerie Camillo, president of business operations for the Flyers and Wells Fargo Center, said of this summer’s projects.
The carnival-like portable food kiosks on wheels — which sell pretzels, funnel cakes, beer, and ice cream — will be replaced by other food retailers, such as the new grab-and-go beer area.
The food concessions on the main concourse walls will be renovated and finished without metal shutters. The idea is to replace the concessions with "flex” kitchens so that the arena can offer different food and menus, not the same fare day after day, year after year. The concessions and eateries in the renovated main concourse will include P.J. Whelihan’s, Lorenzo’s Pizza, Shake Shack, Chickie’s & Pete’s, Federal Donuts, Campo’s and Chick-fil-A.
“We have a lot of season-ticket holders for the Sixers and the Flyers, and we would like to offer them new menus,” said Camillo.
The socializing and drinking area with Tito’s Lounge and P.J. Whelihan’s will be opened up by tearing down the wall between the two establishments.
Inside the arena, the last of the remaining 7,800 “Spectrum red” seats will be torn out and trashed, replaced by modern dark-gray seats with cup holders. The red seats in the upper levels were replaced last year.
The renovation has been budgeted at $250 million, but its costs have now reached about $260 million, Comcast Spectacor officials said. In addition to the renovations on the main concourse, the Wells Fargo Center will replace the overhead scoreboard inside the arena with a new $15 million unit. By the end of the renovation, the Wells Fargo Center will have 15,000 square feet of LED screens blasting out messages.