How Charelle Parker’s Administration Can Turn to Entertainment As A Possible Route to Rejuvenation.
Entertainment (and entertainment fueling tourism) have always been a huge economic driver for Philadelphia. This week, it was announced that Lincoln Financial Field will host six FIFA World Cup Games in 2026, with estimated revenue around $500 million and $262 Million in direct spending for the City of Philadelphia.
Attracting and playing host to worldwide events will be key to the Parker Administration’s rejuvenation of Philadelphia.
It has to look no farther than one of its closest neighbors.
In 1976, the same year of Philadelphia’s Bicentennial Celebration, New Jersey approved a gambling referendum program called “Atlantic City Gamble” which was meant to revitalize Atlantic City. Decades earlier, AC had been a thriving resort town and even a great place for Philadelphians to see up and coming theatrical talent and jazz bands and performers from the late 1880s until the mid-1940s.
Like many areas in the northeast of the US, the Island where present-day Atlantic City is located (now known as Absecon Island) was inhabited by the Lenni Lenape Indians. Original summer vacationers and inhabitants originally named it Absegami Island. Only accessible by boat, 18th century colonials did not inhabit the island until Joseph Leeds settled there in 1783. Around 1854, Philadelphia Civil Engineer named Richard B. Osborne created the original city design and had a name in mind for the town:
Atlantic City, New Jersey.
But by the 1960s, Richard Osborne’s bright vision of Atlantic City was fading. AC had been largely passed over for other vacation spots in America and around the world and its City was in decline. Although downtown AC still suffers from the same problems as many urban cities, it would become one of the major gambling destinations in the US.
When Charelle Parker defeated David Oh in November of 2023, keeping alive a history of Philadelphia Democratic Mayoral victories dating back to 1952, a Philadelphia revitalization was one of her top priorities. On January 2nd, Mayor Parker signed an Executive Order declaring a Public Safety Emergency in Philadelphia due to current levels of crime against property and people.
While an economic revitalization of Philadelphia must include many aspects, something may be borrowed from Atlantic City’s previous entertainment playbook. Philadelphia already has plans as an investment in sports’ entertainment to place the national spotlight back on the City of Brotherly Love.
Amid local opposition, the 76ers are moving forward with the planned 76 Place at Market East in Center City, which is expected to open in 2031 with an estimated capacity of 18,500 seats as their new home arena nestled close to public transportation and the Fashion District Shopping. The Market-Frankford Line and Jefferson Station would easily shuttle fans and tourists to the games, an easier destination than South Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the NFL’s most popular franchises, no matter how the season ended in 2024. Their home of Lincoln Financial Field draws hundreds of thousands of fans each year, rivaled only by their away attendance which fills destination stadiums with midnight and kelly green. This year, throwback Kelly Green Eagles merchandise poured in revenue.
In 2025, Division 1 wrestling championships will be hosted at the Wells Fargo Center. Wrestlemania 40 will be hosted in Philadelphia in 2024. And Philadelphia will welcome the MLB All-Star Game in 2026 as well as the World Cup.
Certainly, one can argue that Atlantic City’s gambling revenue was short-lived with only nine casinos still in operation. Or that a near 13.8% has contributed to poor modern-day socio-economic conditions. But the bold “gamble” that made Atlantic City one of the top destinations in America for years brought an attention that Philly can use.
A seventeen-year old known as Benjamin Franklin who would come to love sport and entertainment throughout his lifetime, and who stepped off a vessel 300 years ago on the Market Street Wharf to see Philadelphia in all of its early October morning glory?
You know he’d love it.
After all, it’s already in the playbook.