Take the tour: Xfinity Live!, opening Friday


It began as little more than pile of a pile of rubble, a promising pockmark on the local landscape. It quickly rose from the dust heap to become a hollowed out shell, but it was still more faade than filling at first. Now Xfinity Live is finished. Its ready. The transformation has been swift and startling.

It wasnt long agoor at least it doesnt seem all that long agowhen Veterans Stadium was across the street and the Spectrum and JFK Stadium were still standing. Theyre all gone now. It is how things go. Progress is rarely slowed by nostalgia.

Where old and outdated local landmarks once loomed, there are new facilities. The Wells Fargo Center, Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field were necessary upgrades, and they are now joined by this newest neighbor: Xfinity Live.

The Spectrum is gone, its time had come and it was time to go, but the heart and soul remains here, said Comcast-Spectacor president Peter Luukko. Were kind of the hub for the Wells Fargo Center, Lincon Financial Field and Citizens Bank ballpark."

The building officially opens on Friday. Third Eye Blind will play a concert to christen the structure and welcome the public.

There will be plenty to see outside. There are fire pits, ample seating and, for the wistful, an outdoor bar built from old Spectrum bricks. On days when there arent events at the surrounding stadiums, parking wont cost anything. And when there is a game happening, parking will be free once the contest has been finished for an hour.

All that happens before you open the door. Once inside, its sensory overload. NBC Sports Arenathe main area at the heart of the expansive 60,000 square-foot spacehas a 32-foot (not inch) HD television for your viewing pleasure. Orbiting that monstrous TV like a bunch of smaller high-definition moons are 26 more 65-inch flat screens. While you grab a drink or something to eat, youll be able to watch those televisions from stadium-style seating and deep, roomy eight-person booths.

The NBC Sports Arena serves as a sort of connective tissue that holds the rest of the Xfinity Live attractions together. If youre hungry, there are plenty of choices: Original Nicks Roast Beef, Phillips Seafood and Chickies & Petes for those who need their crab fries fix. The PBR Barthats the professional bull riders jointfeatures Tex-Mex, tequila, and, for adventurous (or perhaps slightly inebriated) would-be cowboys and cowgirls, the requisite mechanical bull. Theres also the Broad Street Bullies Pub, a bar that delivers, among other items, high-end burgers and craft beer by a wait staff thats versed on the history of everyones favorite toothless, bleeding, bare-knuckled hockey team.

At Victory Beer Hall, youll be able to find some of the finest craft beers made by the local outfit and chat at long, beer-garden style tables. Upstairs, theres a VIP lounge and private dining areas with plush leather seats.

Theres more: If youre looking for a high-end sit-down experience, theres Spectrum Grill. The executive chef was trained by culinary luminary Wolfgang Puck.

Its a high-end steakhouse and restaurant, Luukko said. This is where people can come to celebrate a birthday, an event, bring clients, or what have you. Youd probably come here a little earlier and take your time.

And for those searching for team paraphernalia, Mitchell & Ness is located over by the entrance that faces Citizens Bank Park. There, youll find all sorts of Philly sports gear, along with local heirlooms like the hockey dashers from the Spectrum and a part of the Sixers original hardwood floor.

The neighborhood has really grown up, and this building is another part of that transformation, Luukko said. Theres really nothing like it in the country.

E-mail John Gonzalez at jgonzalez@comcastsportsnet.com

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