Tuesday, April 10, 2012

XFINITY Live! is Philly and South Jersey’s Newest Sports Attraction

Over the last decade, the Philadelphia Sports Complex section on Broad Street has undergone a massive reconstruction with Lincoln Financial Field and Citizen Bank Park replacing the classic Veteran’s Stadium and the Wells Fargo Center hosting the Flyers, 76ers and other entertainment attractions instead of the Spectrum. Late last year, the city bid adieu to its last piece of old school sports and entertainment history when the Spectrum was torn down in favor of a new addition has been sorely lacking in the area, an entertainment complex for good food, good drinks and even better times. If they could not score tickets to sold out events, the only place for sports fans to hang out on while their team’s were playing included CBP’s overly crowded McFadden’s, the Wells Fargo Center’s swanky Cadillac Grille (where it costs $20 just to get in for a couple hours, if you are not a premium season ticket holder) and the vanilla AT&T Pavilion which has lost its luster over time, as well as Chickie and Pete’s across the street and well away from the action. That has now changed with XFINITY LIVE!, which opened its doors to the public a few weeks ago.

With its theme heavily focused on the area’s past and present sports history, XFINITY LIVE! is host to several places for people to hang out, eat, drink, or root on their home team to victory. Each of these mini venues within the complex has a little something for everyone’s tastes and strokes and gives it a unique atmosphere to the region.

 The NBC Sports Arena is a seating area with a full service bar and a menu with some goodies to go along with your spirits. As an added bonus, you watch the game of the day on the giant screen that resides over the bar, with a full sound system so that you will not miss any action.

Did you ever want to save a horse and ride a cowboy…or vice versa? Philly gets some southern flair with the PBR Bar and Grill. This enclosed area features a good menu, full service bar and a functioning mechanical bull that you can test your skills on in its epicenter. Everyone will be able to see you do your best cowboy/cowgirl impression, so proceed with caution. For the guys, the added bonus is the choice of wardrobe by the lovely waitresses – cowgirl hats and boots, daisy dukes and flannels showing midriffs. And the ladies will pleased by what the guys are wearing too so they don't feel left out.

The Spectrum Grill is a more upscale venue, but nonetheless enjoyable if you are able to get seated in there. Drinks aside, this is a genuine steakhouse bar with some great cuts of meat and a lavish menu. Its walls adorning the late Spectrum’s greatest memories in both sports and concert events, this place is located in a more intimate setting than the others without projecting any snob-like qualities. When you walk in, the first thing you will notice is a very detailed replica of the Stanley Cup commemorating the Flyers back-to-back championships in the 70’s, courtesy of the Broad Street Bullies era.

Speaking of the Bullies, you can also enjoy the atmosphere of Flyers hockey at the Broad Street Bullies Pub. They do have a small selection of choices to select from on the menu, but the main draw is its 48 beers on tap. In some ways, this replaces the old Bullies bar that was located at the bottom of the old Spectrum. If you want to relive the glory years of the Flyers’ successful franchise, this is your spot, as you can see tons of old photos from the team’s greatest moments and jerseys on the wall. 

The Victory Beer Hall is definitely the most unique of the venues and by far the best place to go whether a game is happening or not. The Hall has a German-style theme that makes you feel like you are celebrating Oktoberfest, even if it is June. The seating is all bench style and the menu contains a variety of sausages to enjoy, such as the bratwurst, knockwurst and even a good old American style hot dog, each served on a bun with tasty sauerkraut and accenting the German flair a step further. This is where you will find an excellent style of beer choices for serious aficionados, such as the ones containing 9.3% ABV. You can definitely leave this place a little more than tipsy. It also has a stage where live bands are always performing, several TV screens so you can keep your eye on games in progress and a great little outside area complete with a fire pit.

Upstairs is a VIP area where you can sit atop the complex and overlook all of Live!'s going-ons throughout. Besides the better quality of seats and personal bathrooms, you can tell that this place exudes VIP status since its walls contain jerseys of elite players like Reggie White, Roy Halladay and Danny Briere, while downstairs has mounted jerseys such as lesser players like Brandon Graham. Just saying. But there is nothing at all wrong with hanging out among the common folk below, so let’s explore that next. 

Want to just hang out in pure Philly style? The complex’s epicenter hosts The Philly Marketplace that contains a selection of random tables, some with fully functional beer taps, where you can enjoy drinks from another full service bar and some of the area’s tasty treats like Chickie and Pete’s and Nick’s Roast Beef. You can enjoy the game by checking out the NBC Sports Arena’s big screen, which is in perfect view. 

Need to get some air? Outside of the complex is just as engaging as its interior. There is a large, gated area with a stage for you to listen to live bands as you enjoy your variety of beer stations with such companies as Leinenkugel’s, Coors and Foster’s, to name a few. There is also the NBC Sports Field, a little artificial turf football field with games for the kids, and several statues commemorating Philly greats such as Julius Erving, Bobby Clarke and Kate Smith. Finally, there is a 24-ft. wide video board called the XFINITY On Demand Theater that shows sporting events as well as (safe for the whole family) films.

Like anywhere, especially in a city full of passionate sports fans, there are going to be drawbacks. For one, it is brand new, so tons of people will be down there to check it out for the first time. It is also decent-sized, but can easily become overcrowded when there are multiple sporting events happening at once, especially during home games. Another detractor would be the prices, as you can drop some serious dough if you buy food and drinks. But keep in mind that it is Philadelphia after all and the prices are no more expensive than Chickie and Pete’s or McFadden's. Whatever coin you drop at those places, expect to do the same here as well. Also, make sure to avoid the "Reserved Parking" areas, which entrances are located on the road between Lincoln Financial Field and XFINITY Live! itself in the Wells Fargo Center parking lot. If you are only parking to occupy the venue, the parking is advertised as being free, so please make sure to avoid the reserved sections unless you desperately want to pay to park. Lastly, with all of the alcohol outlets through the complex, you can imagine that there is going to be more than one person who has a bit too much and lead to some rowdy behavior shortly afterward. Luckily, there seems to be a ton of security who is always alert and concentrating on keeping the patrons in line. However, the positives do more than outweigh the positives, so view the aforementioned drawbacks as courtesy warnings and friendly "heads ups".

Overall, it is truly a fun place to occupy whether you are either a Philly sports fan or a sports fan in general. If sports are not your thing, this is still a great place to grab some grub and some great brew, especially in the Victory Beer Hall. Afternoons and non-gamedays are going to be the best times to bring the kiddies along if you want to attend with the family and avoid the crowds, but anytime is a good time to spend with friends after your working day is done.

If you have not yet had the pleasure of checking out XFINITY Live!, do not hesitate to go down there for some gratifying entertainment. This is a welcome addition to the facelift which has occurred within the Philadelphia Sport Complex area and makes you feel like you are a part of the action, even if you don’t have a ticket to enter the nearby turnstiles and attend in person. 



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