Coming off the success of the 2017 NFL Draft, Philadelphia is getting a fresh look as a major sports event destination. Philly has hosted its share of sports events over the years, from the NCAA basketball tournament and golf’s U.S. Open to youth events like Northeast Qualifier, which brings hundreds of volleyball teams to the Pennsylvania Convention Center each year.
The center of the action is the South Philadelphia Sports Complex. All three professional sports venues—Lincoln Financial Field, Citizens Bank Park and Wells Fargo Center—are located here, creating one of the most vibrant sports environments in the country. The Xfinity Live bar and restaurant complex next to the stadiums is as a popular place for fans to watch games on the big screen or get their pre-game beer and cheesesteaks.
In 2016, Philadelphia hosted 30 major sports-related events, including the NCAA Basketball East Regionals, the NCAA Lacrosse Championships, and the Copa America Centenario international soccer tournament, generating a total economic impact of roughly $180 million.
3 Questions with Larry Needle
We recently chatted with Larry Needle, longtime executive director of PHL Sports, a division of the Philadelphia CVB.
What was your initial vision for the NFL Draft, and did it play out as you expected?
Our primary vision was Ben Franklin Parkway— imagine this gorgeous backdrop of the city and the Art Museum and being on the Rocky steps, and here these guys are having their “Rocky moment.” The NFL took that vision and turned it into something grander than we ever could have imagined. It was really gratifying for us after all these months to see it come to life and to see all the smiling faces and all the jerseys from all over.
How much does it benefit the city to have all three professional sports venues in the same location?
We think it’s one of the finest, if not the finest, sports complexes in the country. I don’t think anybody else has all the four major teams play in one complex like we do, all within the city limits only minutes from downtown. It’s made a huge difference for us in terms of our efforts to bring major events to the city, and obviously there’s a long track record of success we’ve had in hosting them.
What kind of impact do some of the lesser-known events like the Northeast Qualifier have on Philadelphia tourism?
There’s no doubt that events like the Northeast Qualifier are just as important to what we do as the mega events like the NFL Draft that don’t come around quite as often. These kinds of events are spectacular for the hospitality community. The teams run the Rocky steps together, they go to the Liberty Bell and Constitution Center. That’s what we can offer that lots of other cities can’t. Not every city has those assets, so we’re fortunate that way.