Chinatown residents don’t want a 76ers arena in the neighborhood.
Last summer, the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers ownership announced that it was looking to build an arena on a block in the city’s Chinatown district by 2031. The proposed $1.3 billion venue would be privately-funded. But, privately funded means there is some government financial assistance in terms of tax breaks or incentives. There is one problem. Local residents don’t want the building and are fighting the plan. Forty-one organizations have banded together to form the Chinatown Coalition to Oppose the Arena. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund has joined them in an effort to stop the plan. Chinatown residents in the past blocked a plan to build Major League Baseball’s Phillies a ballpark. Philadelphia politicians ultimately have to decide if the project is worthwhile which sets up a battle between political donors and local residents. Do the politicians listen to lobbyists or do they listen to voters?
In 2020, the present 76ers ownership wanted to build an arena in the waterfront area at Penn’s Landing but the proposal was rejected by the Delaware River Front Corporation. In December 1993, then owner Harold Katz was ready to cross the Delaware and move his team to Camden, New Jersey near the Ben Franklin Bridge which connects New Jersey to Philadelphia. Eventually Philadelphia politicians did pave the way for a new arena to be built on the south side of the city. Katz sold his team to Comcast in 1996. In 2011, the Harris-Blitzer group bought the 76ers. The 76ers ownership denied rumors that they were going to take the team to Newark, New Jersey after getting the franchise. Storefronts in Chinatown have signs in their windows, “No Stadium”. The battle for the ownership of a block in Philadelphia’s Chinatown between an entity worth billions of dollars and local residents has started.
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