Billie Jean King, in town to promote the start of the 34th season of World Team Tennis, stopped by yesterday at the soon-to-close Wachovia Spectrum.
"I walked in there, and the memories kept coming back," she said.
At Broad and Pattison in the 1970s, King, one of the most celebrated tennis stars ever, played in high-profile tournaments for the Philadelphia Freedoms of the WTT and the U.S. team in Federation Cup matches.
And, not surprisingly, she found spectators at the Spectrum to be unlike any other crowd on the professional circuit.
"Philadelphia is great," she said. "They can get rough, but so what? They're paying the price of admission."
King also recalled attending Elton John concerts at the Spectrum and watching hockey games from the personal suite of Flyers chairman Ed Snider during the team's glory years.
During one of John's performances, she said, he carried her onto the stage, and she served as a backup vocalist.
"I have so many memories here," the 65-year-old King said. "I've been coming to Philadelphia since I was 15 years old."
King, owner of 12 Grand Slam singles titles, was player-coach of the original Freedoms franchise in 1974. In 2001, she and the squad returned to the area. Home matches, beginning July 6, will be held for the second straight year at a temporary stadium at the King of Prussia Mall parking lot.
Despite the economy's recent troubles, King said ticket sales are "way ahead of last year. We're perfect for the family, the kids, every age group."
This year, there are 10 WTT franchises. The Freedoms will play 14 matches, seven home and seven away, from July 2 to 22. Two of their contests will be televised on the Tennis Channel.
The Freedoms' headliners this season are Andre Agassi and Venus Williams. In his first WTT action since 2004, Agassi is scheduled to make his lone appearance in King of Prussia on July 10 against the Boston Lobsters.
Of Agassi, who claimed eight Grand Slam singles titles before retiring in 2006, King said, "There's been a transformation in him. He keeps growing and reinventing himself. He continues to want to make a difference."
The Freedoms will have Venus Williams, about to try for her sixth Wimbledon championship, for three matches, including one at home July 8 against the Sacramento Capitals. Wayne's Lisa Raymond is also back.
Other top performers competing in limited WTT schedules this season include John McEnroe of the New York Sportimes, Martina Navratilova of Boston, Michael Chang of Sacramento and Serena Williams of the Washington Kastles.
The WTT features a colored court and instant replay, blasts music between points, and permits cheering before, during and after points.
"We keep pushing the envelope to get more fan-friendly," King said. "We want people active. It's meant to be fun for everyone involved."
Home games in bold. All matches start at 7:30 p.m.and are played at the King of Prussia Mall.
July 2: at Springfield Lasers
July 3: at New York Buzz
July 6: vs. St. Louis Aces, with Anna Kournikova
July 7: with Venus Williams at Washington Kastles
July 8: with Venus Williams vs. Sacramento Capitals
July 9: with Venus Williams at New York Buzz
July 10: With Andre Agassi vs. Boston Lobsters
July 12: at Boston Lobsters
July 13: vs. Wash. Kastles, with Serena Williams
July 14: vs. N.Y. Sportimes, with John McEnroe
July 17: with Andre Agassi at Newport Beach
July 18: at Sacramento Capitals
July 20: vs. Boston Lobsters, with Martina Navratilova
July 22: vs. St. Louis Aces, with Kim Clijsters
Billie Jean King talks about tennis and reminisces about the Wachovia Spectrum in a video report at http://go.philly.com/billie