Record books aren’t the best tenants for our sports memories— and neither are ticket stubs.
It’s been nearly 50 years since the Spectrum was erected in South Philly and going on seven since it was demolished.
In between, the Flyers hoisted two Stanley Cups, the Sixers won an NBA title and some of the greatest concert acts in history performed for Philly crowds.
Xfinity Live now stands in the place where history was made on a nightly basis and one of the only remnants of its importance to the city of Philadelphia now resides in an apartment on North Broad Street.
That’s where Andrew Kay, a 30-year-old government contractor lives. And thats where, bolted to his wall on a custom made frame, stands the Spectrum’s S.
“Everyone was buying seats, a million people have seats,” said Kay, who paid between $350 and $400 for the piece of local history. “I thought it would be something different. You can’t really identify the seats but you can identify the ‘S.’ I thought someone would outbid me. I wanted to see what it would go for and the next thing I know I got an email saying I had won.”
So now what?
“It wasn’t until after I won it that I had the idea,” Kay said. “I wanted something cool to remember the Spectrum with. This is how I am going to keep the memory alive.”
More than 50 former athletes, musicians and executives who played or were key players in the Spectrum have signed the S. His unique set of criteria insist that a signee needs to be directly involved in the building in some way. At the top of his wish list? Christian Laettner.
“He’s not a Philly athlete but he had the most famous shot in history at the Spectrum (his buzzer beater to lift Duke over Kentucky in the 1992 Final Four). I wasn’t going to consider Allen Iverson because once he was a Sixer he played at Wells Fargo so it’s kind of a stretch, but because Iverson is Philly guy it works. It’s more about the stories. I want it to tell the story of the spectrum.”
And since Iverson played in the Spectrum as a Georgetown Hoya, he would pass the test.
Kay’s father was a fan of the original Flyers. He himself was a fan of the team from the Legion of Doom days. Both have coalesced together, inking their names in orange on his S.
“It’s very very cool,” he said of being able to meet so many famous Philadelphia figures. “Ron Hextall was reallythe only person where I froze. Growing up he was my childhood hero.”
And, surprisingly to Kay, it’s not just the fans who long for the days of the Spectrum but the performers too.
“I met the members of the band Phish,” Kay said. “All these people, they love the Spectrum. It’s crazy. I keep saying, we have our memories as fans but hearing how special the building is to them is incredible. Phish has played every venue across the country, so have these athletes, but to know how special the building was and what it meant to them was really awesome. It really has made me want to keep working hard on this project.”
In a way, Kay’s S is a monument, perhaps the only one there is right now, that pays homage to a place where magic happened and where so many lifelong memories were created for so many people.
Kay says it’s like a second job, coming home and finding the next person to make his imprint on the monument on his metaphorical mantle.
“I’ve been doing a lot of research, on the bands and stuff. I always know who is coming to the surrounding area. Last week I got Butch Trunks the drummer from the Allman Brothers to sign it. I have my running list. I still haven’t gotten [Charles] Barkley. The 1983 Sixers championship team is the top target. I have all the members of the Stanley Cup team except one — I am getting Bobby Taylor in a couple weeks.”
Kay never intended for this whim — making a bid to purchase the S at the Spectrum action before it was demolished — to turn into his passion. But when he hears feedback from grateful and appreciative Philadelphians it strengthens his resolve to continue to add ink to the giant blue letter attached to his wall.
“It just sparks their memories they had in the Spectrum, we all have our memories of our first concert there, first game. Hopefully every time someone hears the story they remember the times they had. It’s a shame to see some of these older buildings go down. There is nothing really out there right now to remember the Spectrum. This is hopefully the one piece keeping the memories alive.”
To keep up with the latest adventures of the Spectrum S, follow it (and Andrew Kay):