This morning, Comcast Spectacor announced details of XFINITY Live! Philadelphia, the entertainment complex being built near where the Spectrum used to stand.
Yesterday, this friendly neighborhood blogger was treated to an exclusive advanced preview of what we can expect to see on April 5, when XFINITY Live! Philadelphia officially opens to the public.
The offices at the northwest end of the Wells Fargo Center have a decidedly more chic feel than the rest of the drab interior space which lines the arena. Instead of plain white walls and seven-foot high wooden doors, the now-Xfinity Live! offices, which look out onto the complex’s construction site, feature a Zen-like combination of glass partitions, open areas and modern furniture. After all, these folks are working on building a first-of-its-kind entertainment complex, not selling hockey tickets, like their partners just on the other side of the wall. Their goal is to turn XFINITY Live! Philadelphia from an idea into a place where you’ll want to eat, drink and shop.
In 2008, Comcast-Spectacor and Cordish Company unveiled plans to build a roughly 300,000-square-foot entertainment complex, complete with bars, stores, hotels and more. The unstable economy over the last few years has shrunk that dream to the modest-looking 50,000 square foot complex you see being built diagonal to Citizens Bank Park. But you’re still probably wondering, what the hell is going to be in it? And a myriad other questions.
Let’s answer them.
What is it?
Officially, XFINITY Live! Philadelphia (don’t forget the !– I'm going lowercase from here on out) is a “dining and entertainment district way beyond game day.” In layman’s terms, that means Xfinity Live! is not a big McFadden’s. It’s not going to be a pre and post-game destination that sits dormant the rest of the week. It’s going to be a seven-day a week food court on steroids, with beer. Lots of beer… and music, movies, shops, outdoor seating and even a football field.
The six main facets of Xfinity Live! will be a Philly-style sports bar (Broad Street Bullies Pub), a high-end steak joint (Spectrum Grille), a Tex-Mex style restaurant complete with mechanical bull (PBR), a gigantic sports bar (NBC Sports Arena), a marketplace featuring local businesses and eateries (Philly Marketplace), and – my favorite – a German beer garden (The Victory Beer Hall). Yes, that last one is named for the local microbrewery.
More on all of those in a second.
Why the name, XFINITY Live! Philadelphia?
Everyone likes money, Hoss.
But seriously, did you expect anything less? This is a joint venture between Cordish and a Comcast company– of course they were going to slap their name on it. It doesn’t change things. In fact, the partnership with NBC-Comcast allows for some cool (pricey) upgrades. We’re just going to have to deal with it.
Is it going to be a gimmicky corporate thing? Because I don’t need another gimmicky corporate thing.
The official selling point is “Comcast is a local company” (the city’s largest employer)… but I doubt anyone feels all warm and fuzzy when hearing their name. In fact, the corporate name may lead some to believe that this is going to be a gimmicky money-grab, complete with clichéd themes and generic eateries (think Aramark’s lame themed concessions at Citizens Bank Park– Brewerytown, Old City Creamery, Fairmount Fries, etc.). That’s not going to be the case, and the folks at Xfinity Live! are working very hard to avoid that reality.
The Philly Marketplace area will feature a Chickie’s and Pete’s, Nick’s Roast Beef and other yet-to-be announced local eateries and retailers (you can probably make a few guesses). The other individual attractions will utilize big-name (mostly local) chefs, and feature their own individual management teams.
The goal is that each area of Xfinity Live! functions the way any other Philadelphia business or restaurant would… only they’re located in the heart of the sports complex.
Yes, but about the sports complex… is anyone going to go when there’s not a game going on?
That’s the goal, Virginia.
Xfinity Live! will be open every day from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. Not all areas will be open during those hours, but one restaurant or bar is guaranteed to be open at all times (specifics haven’t been decided yet).
OK, this is all great. So tell me about what’s in there?
Christ, I thought you’d never ask. Here’s a breakdown:
This will be an open area in the center of Xfinity Live! featuring a Chickie’s and Pete’s, Nick’s Roast Beef and other establishments (cappuccino, ice cream, etc.). Since crowds will waver between game days and non-game days, the marketplace, along with other areas of Xfinity Live!, will be able to transform to fit the occasion. This area will be able to host private events, which can be held on the mezzanine level (yes, there are two levels), and has a DJ booth.
Is there a really fucking big TV?
Yes, there is a really fucking big TV.
One of the benefits of the Comcast-NBC partnership, I’m told, is that Xfinity Live! will be home to a 32-foot, diagonal, LED high-definition screen from Sony. It will be one of the largest indoor applications of an HD screen in the world.
The screen will be positioned inside the NBC Sports Arena and visible to the marketplace area.
NBC Sports Arena
You didn’t think you were going to get away from the Comcast-NBC partnership that easily, did you?
This is exactly what you might think it is– a giant sports bar that will be home to the 32-foot HD screen. It will be complete with other HDTVs, a stocked bar and a first-of-its-kind LED sports ticker, powered by CSN. This will presumably be the place to watch the game. It’s not official, but the goal is to pump in some arena sound and effects to produce an experience that rivals the one you could get in the stadiums on either side of Xfinity Live!.
One element that we’d like to not carry over is the room-hue-changing advertisements which plague the scoreboard ticker at the Wells Fargo Center. The last thing we need is the lighting in the bar to be constantly changing from yellow to black to red depending on whichever scrolling advertisement is rolling through the room.
And hey, who knows, perhaps when there are no games, the NBC Sports Arena can show great original NBC programing… like Rock Center (Mondays at 10!).
Pabst Blue Ribbon?
That’s pretty much all you need to know. It will be the centerpiece of the Tex-Mex style restaurant, which aims to be family friendly by day and, um, “dancing on the bars” at night. And an outdoor patio. Nice.
Broad Street Bullies Pub
A local neighborhood bar and grill. Walls will be lined with memorabilia and 800 pucks, which will be signed by athletes and celebs who enter the bar. There will be “tons” of beers on tap that will be changed out monthly.
I asked about the “Bud brands only” type thing that we see in other areas of the sports complex, but I was assured that wouldn’t be the case, and that there would be local and craft brews available.
The menu offerings, in my estimation, project to be somewhere between bar food and Friday’s, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The Broad Street Bullies Pub will also feature the NBC Sports Experience– video games and other family friendly options.
This will be Xfinity Live!’s fancy restaurant. A 120-seat high-end steakhouse that aims to compete with the finest in the city. Renowned chefs will be brought in to run the kitchen. Reservations will be taken through Open Table. Walls will be lined with authentic memorabilia, as well.
The Victory Beer Hall
An excellent addition.
The beer hall will feature long tables, a stage, 2,000-square-foot outdoor area, deck fire pit, mezzanine level for events and, of course, german beers, sausages and pretzels.
Wow. And this will all be open by when?
April 5. And that’s not the goal– it’s the reality. This morning, they announced it as the open date. So one way or another, Xfinity Live! will be open on April 5, a week before the Phillies’ home opener and a few weeks before Flyers playoffs.
What about the prices, Kyle? If this place has arena-like markups, I’m taking the Taxi Crab and going to Chickie’s.
Easy, fella. We’re getting there.
I asked, because, let’s face it, no one wants to spend $7 on Bud Lights when they’re not even at the game. Beer prices will be inline with Center City bars (pricey, but not stadium pricey). Food options will vary. The Spectrum Grille is going to be pricey and you’re probably going to pay markups in other areas, but less than you will in-stadium.
What it’s not going to be is an extension of the Cure Insurance Club, which is nothing more than a giant, in-arena concession stand.
But how crowded will it be? McFadden’s is a standalone option, too, yet I still get penetrated by meatheads if I take two steps to my right.
You read my mind– I don’t like getting penetrated by meatheads, either. To me, McFadden’s isn’t a pleasurable experience on game days… neither is a crowded Ashburn Alley. Both have decent offerings, and great location, but the appeal is lost by having to deal with the ridiculous crowds. What should be an enjoyable experience turns into a fight just to get a beer and a pork sandwich.
That’s my concern with Xfinity Live!
Ultimately, Chickie’s and Pete’s is successful as a pre and post-game option because, while crowded, it manages the masses beautifully. You may wait for a seat, but the bar area is wide-open and service is insanely fast, though not rushed.
Xfinity Live! is going to be big and have many open areas, but if the crowds aren’t managed properly or there are bottlenecks in bad spots, the whole experience could suffer. From the images I’ve seen, the design looks open enough, though.
Perhaps there will be outdoor areas, too?
Get of my my fucking mind! Seriously… get. out. I was just going there.
Yes, there will be much outdoor space. In various areas surrounding the building, there will be HDTV screens capable of showing sporting events and movies. An area for live local, regional and national acts. And – get this – a 300 x 100 artificial turf field for intramural games (and other yet-to-be-defined uses).
Will Juan Castillo be coaching a game there?
Perhaps he can find a way to have players cover a field that size.
I wouldn’t hold my br… Wait! Back to the complex.
What about parking?
Ah yes, parking. The shrunken size of Xfinity Live! allows for parking in the area where the Spectrum used to be, so that helps. But the whole Wells Fargo Center lot is considered parking for the complex.
How much does it cost?
You obviously have to pay on game days. But, it’s FREE on non-game days, and FREE one hour after the last event of the day starts (if the Phillies play at 1 and Flyers play at 7, FREE parking starts at 8). That’s reasonable.
There will be a valet lot, as well. But no word on pricing there.
What about other modes of transportation?
As you might imagine, there are other ways one could arrive, like, say, by SEPTA, or shuttle bus. No specific details were given yet, but they are exploring other options.
Any specifics on beers, menu items, specials, etc.?
Not yet. No details beyond what you see above were given.
Will anything be added before the opening date?
Yes. Several vendors are in the process of finalizing deals, so you expect a number of other local establishments to fill the complex, specifically in the Philly Marketplace.
Officially, no. But when Ed Snider gave an interview to CSN in the spring, he admitted that this was merely phase one:
The multistory bar, which will absorb 50,000 square feet of the 300,000-square-foot site, will be ready to serve customers by the Phillies opener in 2012, he said. As for the rest, of which the centerpiece is to be a luxury hotel, well . . .
"We're still waiting for the economy," the CEO and president of the Flyers and Sixers said.
So, it might turn into the grand vision we were told about in 2008, but a lot depends on the complex’s early success.
Can I work there?
You bet! Xfinity Live! will be hiring 750 employees to staff the various areas of the complex. You can get further details on the website, Xfinitylive.com.
There you have it. Xfinity Live! aims to not only to enhance the game day experience, but also function as a standalone dining and entertainment option. There is still much work to be done, and many details to be ironed out, but the early results (and plans) look good.
We’ll keep you updated on all additions as the grand opening nears.