With the 2014 NBA draft just around the corner, 76ers fans might think the team’s biggest obstacle is drafting the perfect player with the 3rd overall pick. But the team has a much deeper problem than figuring out who would compliment the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams.
The Sixers have a serious image problem.
The team will move its practice arena from the outdated Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine to a new, state-of-the art facility across the river in the heart of the industrial shell of a ghost town that has become Camden, New Jersey. Following the path of the Flyers who built their practice facility in Voorhees, the organization has decided against building their new facility in the burgeoning Navy Yard, or anywhere else in Philly, in favor of the tax break paradise that is crime infested Camden County.
By vacating a plan to build a facility in the Navy Yard, the Sixers have overtly proven the sad reality most sports fans already suspected. Professional sports teams only care about making money. Loyalty, the opinion of the fans, and finding a good location doesn’t seem to be part of the equation.
Camden has offered the team $82 million in tax breaks over 10 years, which is the projected maximum total cost of building the facility. The Sixers have basically been handed the resources to build a brand new practice location for free, so one would assume that Camden must be getting some pretty great incentives on their end in return.
However, as Philly.com reports, this new facility will only bring 250 new jobs to Camden’s crippled economy. And let’s not forget 200 of these jobs already exist within the Sixers organization, so that means the Sixers facility will add an absurdly miniscule 50 new jobs to Camden at the low price of $8.2 million per year in lost tax revenue over ten years. As Nextcity.org reports,the total cost to the state of New Jersey ends up being $1.6 million per new employee for the city. The Sixers are just picking through Camden’s carcass for the one thing it has left: tax incentives.
While Camden is clearly willing to sell itself off and let its citizens suffer for the glory of procuring Philadelphia’s basketball team’s practice arena, Philadelphia will suffer in a completely different manner due to the Sixers’ diminished sense of loyalty.
We’ve seen some of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods go through spectacular upgrades over the past five years. Look no further than Center City, and see cranes lining the skyline year-round. Development has come back to Philadelphia, but the Sixers have no apparent interest in being a part of the revitalization of our city. That’s a mistake the team could regret for years to come.
Apparently the Navy Yard wasn’t enticing enough to allow the Sixers to go through with tentative plans to build there, despite the fact that it has become an area of massive economic expansion within the city and is located a quarter mile from the Wells Fargo Center. By the end of 2013, the Navy Yard was home to more than 10,000 employees working for 130 companies. The Sixers corporate headquarters are even located there, and were renovated in 2013. However, this deal will have the team moving its corporate headquarters to Camden as well.
Developer Eric Blumenfeld also presented a feasible plan for the construction of a new Sixers facility. Blumenfeld is most famous for being the man who has spearheaded a lot of development along North Broad Street, and he most recently purchased the Divine Lorraine (and actually plans to renovate it!). He also turned a formerly underdeveloped 600 North Broad location into Cescaphe Event Group’s Vie and Chef Marc Vetri’s Alla Spina and Osteria restaurants. Blumenfeld hoped to build the Sixers facility directly on North Broad to continue the area’s rejuvenation and provide a facility that is accessible to every citizen of Philadelphia, but now we must now leave our city if we want to see our basketball team practice.
Blumenfeld believes in Philadelphia and has a vision for the city, which is exactly what the 76ers lack. We haven’t had much to cheer for since the Iverson-era ended, but legions of fans haven’t given up on the team. It’s disappointing to see the Sixers giving up on Philadelphia. As a result of this move I’m going to have to give up on them.