The Eagles’ championship parade route stretched nearly five miles, starting at the bottom of Broad Street. Those who were there were lost in a sea of people wearing green and braving the cold. People were everywhere the eyes could see, especially toward the end of the parade at Ben Franklin Parkway — at the foot of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Those who watched on television saw an impressive multitude of people. The aerial shots were simply stunning, and the crowd looked much larger than Philly’s last championship celebration, following 2008’s Phillies World Series win. That crowd size for the march down Broad Street was estimated at just over 750,000 people in October 2008.
When the Pope visited Philly a few years ago, estimates were similar — just around 800,000.
So relatively speaking, the Eagles parade looked like a bigger event. But exactly how many people were at the Eagles celebration Thursday?
Well, it’s a complicated question to answer. The City of Philadelphia does not plan to release any official crowd size so those interested are left to estimate. Reports said the city was expecting around two million people, but Mayor Kenney’s spokesman Mike Dunn declined to guess.
“We had hundreds of thousands, and the most important thing is that the overwhelming majority of people had a great time seeing and honoring the team,” Dunn told the Inquirer. (The newspaper also commissioned British “crowd safety experts” to study the parade, who claimed the size was around 700,000, a number equal to nearly half the entire Philadelphia population.
But for anyone who was in that veritable ocean of Eagles fans, it just doesn’t seem to do the crowd justice.
So what was the actual number? ESPN claimed after the parade the number is around two million. Being there offered a limited perspective, but the two million mark seems close.
“It had to be at least two and a half million,” Lancaster’s David DeGrace said after leaving the parade. DeGrace stood for nearly four hours in the heart of Eakins Oval and was stunned by the unending masses of people in every single direction. “There were at least one millon at the art museum alone.”
Add that to the steady streams of fans lining both sides of Broad Street all the way from the Sports Complex to City Hall, and an excess of one million seems pretty reasonable.
Fans who spent hours traveling into Center City spent just as many hours heading home, with packed lines at subway and SEPTA stations for quite some time after the end of the event and every available train reportedly filled to capacity.
SEPTA estimated that they alone would transport 500,000 people for the parade, and that doesn’t include people who drove or used other means of transit.
But whatever the real number, it was one of the grandest celebrations Philadelphia has ever seen.
“This Super Bowl championship is for you,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said during the ceremony held at the parade’s end. “You are the most passionate and deserving sports fans on the planet. We couldn’t have done it without you.”