Like a lot of people, The Grateful Dead were sad to hear the Spectrum would be decommissioned and demolished. The band played countless shows at the venue over the years and became as much a part of the building's history as the teams that ran the hardwood and skated the ice. The Dead even had a banner hanging from the rafters.
When the band played its final gig at the Spectrum last spring, the Dead asked Lou Scheinfeld if they could have their banner. Scheinfeld is the Spectrum's Director of Closure - a playful title bestowed on him by longtime friend and Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider. The two have known each other for years. Scheinfeld actually helped Snider open the building back in 1967, then served as VP of the Flyers and president of the Spectrum for a while. Now, fittingly, he's helping dismantle the arena and hand out souvenirs to anyone who might be interested in tangible memories.
Scheinfeld decided to grant the Dead's request, and the band was most grateful - or it would have been if it hadn't stolen the banner during the show and then fled the scene.
"Before we could tell them, the Dead were gone and so was the banner," Scheinfeld said.
The band apparently sent a roadie up to the rafters during the show to cut down the banner just in case. Scheinfeld and his staff had a good laugh when they realized what happened. That's pretty much how this whole Spectrum farewell process has gone. It's been one strange yarn after another.
A father phoned in and inquired about a famous section of the basketball court because his daughter had a crush on Christian Laettner. Someone else wanted to purchase the scoreboard and set it up at his pad, but it proved cost-prohibitive (not to mention spatially infeasible). And an overly ambitious buyer asked how much the company wanted for the whole building because he hoped "to move it somewhere." Scheinfeld told him to make an offer, but the guy never called back.
One of the weirder requests came from a fan eager to buy a specific seat because his mother-in-law supposedly died in it.
"He wanted to take it home and 'enjoy the seat she'll never sit in,' " Scheinfeld said.
Guess they didn't get along.
There have been offers for the arena's emergency generators (the guy wanted to convert them from electricity to diesel and ship them to Argentina for a profit) and even the fence that surrounds the building. A couple got married under a tree there during a Ted Nugent concert. They're building a house in Maryland and want to install the fence around their new home as a reminder of their love and the spot where their relationship became official in the eyes of God.
"I told them if they could dig it up and transport it, they can have it for free," Scheinfeld said. "It's encased in cement. The work alone will cost more than the fence is worth, but I want to help people with this stuff. I have so many great memories from this building and other people do, too."
Scheinfeld is a soft touch, but not everything at the Spectrum is being given away free of charge. Regular readers of this space know the building's folding chairs are being sold for $200 a pop.
"Come on," Scheinfeld said when I busted his chops about it, "they're only $195."
Scheinfeld said the first five rows of the arena featured folding chairs and that there's a demand for them. He added that 25 percent of all profits will go to charity - the Comcast-Spectacor Foundation - while the rest of the money will be used to subsidize the building's demolition. Scheinfeld estimates it will cost approximately $3 million to wipe away the Spectrum's imprint from South Philly. They hope to have fireworks and a laser show the night the process begins, but it won't include the same sort of spectacular implosion that ushered the Vet to the stadium graveyard. Instead, and somewhat sadly, the Spectrum will be gutted in April and then torn down piece by piece using construction equipment.
"We're thinking about having Dave Schultz take the first bite out of it, maybe with a giant hammer or something," Scheinfeld said. "The building deserves a better ending than being eaten away by a big claw."
In the interim, Scheinfeld and his crew continue to sell off pieces of the building to anyone who's interested. That includes the urinals (Scheinfeld quipped that they charge extra for cigarette butts), one of which ended up in the hands of 610 WIP's morning show. They plan to give it to a listener.
Initially, Scheinfeld thought WIP was going to make the urinal part of the coming Wing Bowl, the station's annual glorification of gluttony. He liked that idea better.
"It would class up their event," Scheinfeld said.