The first major professional sports playoff game in Philadelphia since the arrival of COVID-19, the top-seeded 76ers’ postseason tip-off vs. the Washington Wizards, drew an announced crowd of 11,160 to the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday.
That same day, at the same 1:05 p.m. start time, 15,360 attendees found their seats just one block away at Citizens Bank Ballpark for the finale of a three-game set between the Phillies and the Boston Red Sox.
It’s not the same as the full capacity at those venues of 20,000-plus and 43,000-plus, respectively, but it’s the closest the Stadium District has come in 2021 to a traditional, bustling game day.
And that’s welcome news for Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia. Located a short walk from the home fields/courts/rinks of the Phillies, Eagles, 76ers, and Flyers, the property opened to the full public amid fan-less games in February and is just now starting to experience the sports crowd foot traffic it signed up for.
“The energy in the Stadium District this weekend was electric and we absolutely noticed an increase in foot traffic at Live!,” Senior Vice President of Marketing Mario Maesano told Penn Bets. “With more and more fans allowed at Wells Fargo Center and Citizens Bank Park, we’re experiencing some of our busier days in business.”
Maesano shared some specifics about the business patterns over recent weeks with the home teams being in action.
“We tend to see a surge in volume about two hours before a game and then an influx of foot traffic immediately afterwards,” he said, noting that there are also plenty of unticketed sports fans gathering at the casino’s Sports & Social Philly sports bar and Center Bar during the games. “We’re seeing higher post-game activity for afternoon games, while night games receive higher pre-game traffic.”
The spirit of 75
The city of Philadelphia has moved at a different pace than the rest of the state in terms of COVID reopenings, and whereas some casinos dropped mask requirements in mid-May, the two within city limits — Live! and Rivers Philadelphia — have had to comply with stricter guidelines.
Live! Philadelphia is currently operating at 75% capacity. Mayor Jim Kenney announced on May 18 that all indoor capacity restrictions will be lifted June 11.
“We’ve worked incredibly hard to safely welcome back fans to Wells Fargo Center,” said Wells Fargo Center President of Business Operations Valerie Camillo in a statement, “and [Mayor Kenney’s] announcement means that starting June 11, we’ll be open at full capacity once again for games, concerts, and other events. For more than a year, we’ve missed the incredible feeling of a full capacity crowd on Broad Street, and now, we can finally say that those are officially coming back.”
Sixers playoff crowds were increased to 50% following the mayor’s announcement and will go to 100% on June 11, and the Phillies, despite the relative safety of playing outdoors, are looking at the same timeline.
Since opening in a very limited fashion on Jan. 19, Live! Philadelphia has steadily increased revenue each month, according to reports from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Total gaming revenue went from $4.3 million in the partial month of January to $16.3 million in February, $20.9 million in March, and just about $20,000 shy of $22 million in April.
Similar to patterns in the rest of the state and country, sports betting handle at the property increased in March from February with the help of the popular NCAA men’s basketball tournament, but it dipped in April.
Here’s a look at the month-by-month sports wagering handle and revenue at the new Philadelphia property:
‘Plexiglas dividers will begin to come down’
We don’t have access to any May figures yet, but anecdotally, signs point to a continuing revenue uptick.
All of this is just a warmup, though, for June’s full reopening, and even that is just a warmup for the return in the fall of the sports team that powers the city.
“On June 11, we look forward to welcoming guests at full capacity in the casino, hotel, and our restaurants,” Maesano said. “Plexiglas dividers will begin to come down to allow for increased gaming capacity. Vaccinated guests will no longer be required to wear masks, though Live! Team Members will continue to do so as the health and safety of our guests and Team Members continues to be our number one priority.
“We are looking forward to an Eagles season with full attendance, and are expecting Live! to continue to be the best spot in town for pre- and post-game activity.”