The new 76ers Fieldhouse in South Wilmington hosted its opening game Wednesday. The Delaware Blue Coats lost to the Memphis Hustle — 110-106.
But officials still see the $30 million facility, which opened Wednesday after a several-week delay, as a win. It received several million dollars of public assistance from the State of Delaware and the City of Wilmington.
“Whenever you have thousands of people congregating, you create an economy. There’s an economy whether it’s food or hospitality, or even retail,” said Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki.
The fieldhouse is located just outside of Southbridge— on the east side of the Christina River.
Megan McGlinchey, director of the Riverfront Development Corporation, which assembled the land for the 76ers Fieldhouse and is leasing it to Buccini/Pollin Group, says the new arena is the first big step in bringing new development to the east side of the Riverfront.
“With the construction of the Christina River Bridge which will open hopefully in early 2020, we see this bank, the east bank, as the next frontier for riverfront development,” said McGlinchey. “It’s an area that we’ll be focused on for many years to come, for sure.”
McGlinchey says the Riverfront Development Corporation has created a master plan for the east Riverfront that will be released sometime this year.
“[The fieldhouse] is right outside the city. Easy to get to. And it’ll probably help the area economically,” said Spencer Gibbs, a Wilmington resident who bought season tickets.
President of the Southbridge Civic Association Marie Reed has high hopes for the facility’s role as a community resource— but says there has been little outreach to her neighborhood.
“I have a lot of kids that want to come to the event. I have a gentleman, he’s majoring in sports management, who wants to do an internship here. So I’m really, really looking forward to hopefully forming a relationship with some of their administration here,” said Reed. “No progress yet.”
Work continues around the new facility, which broke ground last year.
The turf fields and basketball courts coming to the fieldhouse that are being promoted to host youth sports and “community events” are expected to open in the next few months.
This story has been updated.