Protesters urge Philadelphia City Council not to fund new 76ers arena with city dollars

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Friday, January 26, 2024
Protestors urge council not to fund new 76ers arena with city dollars
Protestors urge council not to fund new 76ers arena with city dollars

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Residents and business owners in Philadelphia's Chinatown continue their pushback against a proposed new arena for the 76ers.

On Thursday they took the fight to City Hall on the first day of the new Philadelphia City Council session. Members of the Save Chinatown Coalition are challenging the council not to put any city dollars into building 76Place.

"I'm here today to urge leaders in City Hall to protect Chinatown by stopping the Sixers arena from being built right next to it," said Chinatown business owner Xu Lin.

The arena would be built in the 1000 block of Market Street, and there's concern over the potential impact on Chinatown.

In the demonstration, Save Chinatown Coalition specifically called out Councilmember Mark Squilla who represents the area. They say he's backtracking on his word to not introduce legislation on the arena unless developers promised not to accepting city, state or federal funding.

Squilla now says he doesn't have control over anything outside of city funding.

"I made a commitment not to support any local funding, city funding for the project. I have no control over the state elected officials, and the federal elected officials," he said.

A statement to Action News from the project developers said that 76ers place will explore opportunities for state and federal funding-- not local dollars.

That statement from 76 DevCo in full says:

"We are focused on delivering an arena that makes a positive and lasting impact on our city. This project is being financed through a combination of equity and debt, along with advertising and sponsorship revenue. We believe that a development of this nature in Philadelphia should not utilize scarce public resources. We will not be seeking any subsidies from the City of Philadelphia. However, if there are existing state and federal programs that this project qualifies for and could help us enhance the project, we will be open to exploring them."

Squilla said he could ultimately support the proposal.

"I think it's an interesting proposal. I'm still not sure based on the impact of the community," he said. "I could support it, yes."

New Philadelphia City Council President Kenyatta Johnson said council members are still awaiting an initial report.

"I haven't heard anyone, including myself, make a definitive decision on where they are at because we haven't seen a proposal," said Johnson.

Even though demonstrators raised the issue before council on Thursday, there's still no timeline for when city council members will receive that initial report on the arena proposal.