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Official Review by Geoff Crawley, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Wells Fargo Center is the home of the Philadelphia Soul, Flyers and 76ers. Built near the ruins of the Spectrum, it 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 to be built, the Wells Fargo Center is all glitz and glamour, and is totally a fun place, but it lacks the Spectrum's soul. (See what I did there?)
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".
Wow. You name it, it's here. You like cheesesteaks? Check. You like good BBQ? Check. You like Chickie's and Pete's crab fries? You better, because if you don't, you and me are gonna fight. It's all here. There is a tremendous selection of food and beer, including a gluten free beer, reasonably priced at a little over $7 on average. There are two full bars, PJ Whelihan's, and the AT&T Pavilion.
The Pavilion has Campo's (Cheesesteaks) and Chickie's and Pete's (sandwiches and crab fries. Just get some, trust me.) It also has a full bar which serves, for the outrageous price of $11, a hand cut roast beef sandwich with sides. I mean, it's probably the best roast beef sandwich you'll ever have. It is literally hand cut before your eyes, but I have a hard time justifying paying eleven bucks for a sandwich. The Pavilion is open two hours before and after each game which makes it a great place to hang out.
The Wells Fargo Center is nice. It's very pretty. It has lots of fun stuff to do. But it won't ever scare anybody. Teams used to be afraid to play in the Spectrum. Not here. It's too nice. Wouldn't want to mess anything up. I mean, you look up in the rafters, and the same banners hang, along with a couple of new ones, like the 2008 Arena Bowl Champions banner, but it's not the same. You got your pop-a-shot basketball games and your air hockey tables and hockey-in-a-bubble style foosball games, all your modern arena doodads and hoohah, but it just ain't the same atmosphere. And that's kinda sad.
Chickie's and Pete's 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.
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.) Look, just go to Chickie's, trust me. It's worth it.
So, I have a huge bias towards Philly fans, seeing as I am one. And the fans that were there were great. Loud, inappropriate, obnoxious, everything you want in a Philly fan. The problem is that there were only, like, 28 of them there. OK, that's a slight exaggeration, but there were a LOT of empty seats, rows and sections. I need more.
This would be a two, but there were people tailgating before the game. At an ARENA FOOTBALL GAME.
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 $15. Like with most of the new arenas, bathrooms are plentiful, with family changing rooms in select locations. They were surprisingly clean.
You'll have fun here; there is a lot to do. Arena Football goes out of its way to make things fun and fairly priced. Bars and games abound; tickets and food are decently priced.
The arena has free wi-fi, which is worth 5 points by itself, but I'm only giving one. It also scores for an Arena Football feature: when a ball goes into the stands, the fan gets to keep it. And since the field is surrounded by the stands, almost every time a ball goes out of bounds, somebody gets a free ball.
Wells Fargo Center is an overall fun place to see a game. Is it worth a special trip to Philadelphia just for that? I wouldn't go that far. But if you are in town, it is a must stop. Well, Chickie's and Pete's is, anyway.
Geoff Crawley is the Mid Atlantic Regional Correspondent and Voice of the Fan and is the host of a weekly podcast.
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1526 Packer Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19145
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2628 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19146