Wells Fargo Center is the home of approximately 97 professional sports franchises, including Philadelphia’s Flyers, 76ers, Soul and the Philadelphia Wings of the National Lacrosse League (NLL). Built near the ruins of the Spectrum, the arena is part of the massive Philadelphia Sports Complex, which includes Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL’s Eagles, and Citizens Bank Park, home of the 2008 World Champion Phillies.
The first of the three facilities to be built, the Wells Fargo Center is very pretty and super shiny. When the Wings play, you can almost at times feel the vibe of the old Spectrum. But it just isn’t gritty enough. Some might say that’s a good thing.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
I am going to question your sanity if you complain about the food here. There is nothing missing. All your general stadium fare is here, but with that little something extra. I mean, you can get nachos anywhere, but nachos with pulled pork BBQ on it? Come on, man, that's special. There are also terrific cheesesteaks (duh, it's in PHILLY), and by cheesesteaks, I mean meat fried in heart attack inducing amounts of oil on a real roll with cheese. Like actual cheese. Don't embarrass yourself by asking for lettuce and tomato on it. And get some Crab Fries from Chickie's and Pete's, one of the best things you can eat at any live sporting event.
There are healthier choices too, if that's your thing, which it might be if you are attending a lacrosse match. There are lots of beer choices, including a gluten free option, reasonably priced (for an arena) at around $8. There are two full bars, PJ Whelihan's, and the Cure Insurance Club, which is open two hours before and after each game.
The Wings do a pretty good job of creating a fun environment for the fans. One neat feature is that all players are available for autographs after the game. One not so neat feature is that there is heavy metal music playing the whole time. I mean, like, THE WHOLE TIME. During game play, during time outs, all the time. I found it annoying, but on the other hand, I tried to imagine what it would be like watching without the music, and it seemed to fit. But I just personally didn't like it. Don't get me wrong, I like Rob Zombie as much as the next guy, it just seemed a bit much.
Chickie's and Pete's alone gives this the full 5 points here, in fact, if I could give more, I would. You can valet park your car here for $15. The "Taxi Crab" will drive you to the Wells Fargo Center, then pick you up and bring you back after. (You will be towed if you just park and walk, not the fault of the establishment, but a rule of the lot owner.) The Crab Fries must be eaten to be believed. If you like seafood, this is the spot. If you like bar food, this is the spot. If you like giant TV screens almost one and a half stories tall, this is the spot.
How about video game playing pods? The back portion, PLAY2, has Amusement Pod Entertainment Centers, or apecs. You can reserve an apec and play PS3, Wii, or Xbox 360 games with your friends or against groups in other apecs. Or you can just hang out at the bar and watch people play in the apecs, or listen to the DJ. Seriously, this is a crazy great place.
It was rated "Best Sports Bar on the East Coast" by ESPN, and it lives up to it. It was rated "Best Sports Bar In The History Of The World" by me. They have "Beer Towers," a three foot (or so) tall container of beer with a tap on it. It holds 120 ounces for $25 (domestic) or $30 (imported). It is what ESPNZone wished it could have been. It is your neighborhood bar with lots of makeup on, looking all hot at the club on a Friday night. You have to come here. Forget the arena. Just come here.
Or you could just go to Xfinity Live, which, frankly, defies description, but I'm gonna try. It is right in front of the arena; you cannot miss it. Imagine, if you will, a mall food court on steroids with smoking hot waitresses dancing on the bar in the PBR Bar and Grill. (That's Professional Bull Riding, not Pabst Blue Ribbon. Get your mind out of the keg.) That would be the one with the mechanical bull. You'll see that one, assuming, you can get past the 32'...
...yeah, that's THIRTY TWO FEET...
...high definition screen in the NBC Sports Arena Bar. Frankly, I couldn't. The only reason I know about the mechanical bull is that where I sat was slightly angled toward it. There are four other restaurants in this place, which I'm sure are terrific.
If I had to say something negative, it would be that it is nearly unbearably loud. If you are with other people, it is difficult to hear each other speak.
Parking is free under certain circumstances. A Wings game would count as one of those circumstances.
There are other spots as well. McFadden's is a good Irish/sports pub attached to Citizens Bank Park. Behind Citizens Bank Park is the cleverly named Stadium Sports Bar Restaurant in the Holiday Inn. (The name is the best thing about it.)
Full disclosure: I have never been to a lacrosse match before this visit. Also, I am a Philly fan.
I could not believe how many people were there.
The upper sections are closed for Lacrosse and Arena Football. But the lower bowl was packed. PACKED. And the fans were, well, everything you would expect from Philly: loud, obnoxious, well-informed and awesome. When about to introduce the visiting team, the PA announcer said, "And let's give a warm Philadelphia welcome to the visiting Minnesota Swarm..."
All together now...
In Philly, shocking, I know.
After each player's name, the crowd yelled, "SUCKS!" After each coaches name, the crowd yelled, "SUCKS!" After the trainer's name, the crowd yelled, "SUCKS!" After the referee's name, the crowd yelled, "SUCKS!" I had to laugh at that.
There were tailgaters. At an indoor lacrosse match.
What more could you ask of a fan base? Nothing, that's what.
This arena is right off I-95, the main interstate on the East Coast. It is easy to find. Public transit is excellent, with a subway stop right next to the arena. There is more parking than you will know what to do with, and it starts at $20, which, frankly, is a little high, in my opinion. Like with most of the new arenas, bathrooms are plentiful, with family changing rooms in select locations. They were also surprisingly clean.
You'll have fun here; there is a lot to do. The Wings go out of their way to make things fun and fairly priced.
The arena has free wi-fi, which hopefully will become more and more the norm in arenas.
A surprisingly good time will be had at a Philadelphia Wings game at Wells Fargo Center. Is it the Spectrum? No, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It may lack the Spectrum's soul, but it also lacks the Spectrum's smell and rats and whatnot. Chickie's and Pete's and Xfinity Live are well worth the trip alone. Stop on by.
***Lead photo attributed to PHL Approach.
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