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Welcome to Secret Philly, an occasional series in which Billy Penn will visit hidden or exclusive places in Philadelphia and write about them.
Outside the Wells Fargo Center, a blue awning containing the letters V.I.P. juts out on the north side of the building. Many Flyers and Sixers fans walk by this location every game, but few of them get to walk through. The V.I.P. entrance is for people with tickets to one of the Wells Fargo Center’s 126 suites.
Admission to the luxury suites doesn’t just mean you get to separate yourself from the rest of the plebes there watching hockey or basketball from the cheap seats. The perks go further than that. Luxury suite fans get specialty foods, private restrooms and the chance to meet famous people like Flyers great Bernie Parent or possibly even Will Smith at an exclusive Cigar Club. This is what it’s like to be a Flyers V.I.P.
The Wells Fargo Center has 18 club suites, 26 balcony suites and 82 lower level luxury suites. The lower level suites are the nicest and most expensive. They wrap around the entirety of the Wells Fargo Center between the lower and upper decks of the arena, providing this view:
Each lower level luxury suite has room for 21 people. It comes with tables, seats for watching the game outside the suite, a kitchenette and — this is huge — its own restroom. Yep, getting a suite basically guards you from having to associate from anyone else.
Each suite can get one of several food and drink packages. The food is made by Aramark chefs who cater solely to the luxury suite crowd and make fancier fare like braised short ribs and crab cakes, as well as typical sports foods like cheesesteaks and hot dogs. Plenty of beers are available, from the regular domestics to Victory, Yard’s, Dogfish Head and a gluten-free Johnny Appleseed hard cider. During the later parts of games, an ice cream sundae cart is rolled from suite to suite.
A suite can be rented out for a full year, and many companies do this, sometimes splitting a suite with another company. The price for a full year of Flyers and Sixers games ranges from $205,000 for the most prime view to $140,000 for views behind the goals. A season package for Flyers or Sixers games separately would be in the range of $75,000 to $90,000. Suites can also be rented for individual games, and the price is actually reasonable. YOU, dear reader, and 20 friends could get access to a lower level suite for a Flyers game for about $3,000 (a balcony suite would be about $2,500). That sum would include food and drink, too.
Luxury suites aren’t just for sports. The companies that rent the luxury suites for a full year for both teams also have access to every event in the Wells Fargo Center, from “Frozen On Ice” to concerts, so long as they also pay extra for individual tickets.
Will that also be the case for the Democratic National Convention? For now, it’s up in the air. The Wells Fargo Center is in the preliminary stages for deciding how to handle suites for that event. When Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz visited Philadelphia, according to the New York Times, she toured the luxury boxes. They’re supposed to be key to gaining major corporate sponsors for the event.
The Cadillac Grille
Another perk of having a luxury suite is entry to the Cadillac Grille. This bar and restaurant about a floor below the suites faces north, providing a view of Philadelphia’s skyline that looks particularly beautiful for fall and spring games when the sun is setting around the time most games start.
Drinks and food are purchased separately from any food package available in the suite. The menu currently features items like “Lancaster County Organic Half Roasted Chicken” and “Barolo Braised Lamb Shank Risotto.”
The best perk of The Cadillac Grille, also accessible for season ticket holders who pay memberships, is getting a “table on the glass.” A handful of tables — available if you’re lucky enough to get a reservation — provide a perfect view of the game for while you’re eating dinner or drinking.
The Cigar Club
At the other end of the Wells Fargo Center from the Cadillac Grille, any luxury suite ticket holder has access to the Cigar Club.
There, you can buy cigars and high-end cocktails or bring your own stogies if you reserve a locker. Some of Philadelphia’s most famous people do just that. Here’s a selection of some of the people who have lockers.
Bernie Parent can be found smoking cigars and speaking with fans regularly. But don’t expect a Will Smith sighting if you ever get access. He supposedly bought the locker for the All Star Game in 2002 but rarely comes around.
Featured image of the inside of a suite is by Jeff Fusco, courtesy of the Philadelphia Flyers.