Philly's most famous statue began Summer 2017 behind a chain link fence

Sebastian Ortolaza really wanted a pic with Rocky. Welp.

The area surrounding the famed statue is fenced off for renovations, and will remain that way for the next two weeks.

Ortolaza was clinging to the chainlink fence— as close as anyone is going to get— as his dad Sergio explained the family was visiting Philly from Orlando. A steady stream of tourists (and better yet, tourist buses) came by the Art Museum Thursday afternoon, with visitors regularly strolling around and taking a shot at running up the iconic steps.

Some said Rocky being fenced off was a disappointment; others said the statue isn’t really what they came for anyway. Sebastian was hoping since they didn’t get to stand with the statue, that they could check out Rocky’s restaurant. (And if they meant Victor Cafe, the location of the establishment Adrian’s from the movies, then I totally misdirected them by telling them Rocky’s place is not a thing. Sorry, Ortolazas!)

Anika Wuestefeld, a tourist from Cologne, came for both the statue and the steps. “I took a picture through this little hole in there,” she said of Rocky, off in the distance through the fence. “But it’s more important for me to see and get the feeling, not to get the picture of the statue… so I’m happy about that.”

Credit: Cassie Owens/Billy Penn

Heather Zea was in town for work and came with colleagues on a lunchbreak. In front of the fence, she took photos of her friends who had walked up the small incline behind the statue, in hopes of getting in the photo with Rocky from higher ground. It wasn’t the same as standing next to the champ, but it worked.

“We at least got it,” she said. “We almost didn’t come because we heard it was under renovation, but we figured we’d at least see the steps.”

Lara Ferrari was in town with her parents from Milan. The Ferraris have visited the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Hollywood, New York, Death Valley and Mount Rushmore, so seeing “the Sylvester Stallone steps” was on their list. Not being able to get to Rocky was kind of a bummer, but they’re looking forward to seeing Independence Hall and Center City.

Santiago Meneses’ family took him to Philly as a graduation present. The Meneses clan is from Guatemala City. Santiago was enrolled at a boarding school in Virginia, and plans to attend Lynchburg College in the fall. “We’d never been to do Philadelphia so we wanted to try something new,” he explained.

Heather Zea, among friends, looking at the statue. Credit: Cassie Owens/Billy Penn

Randy and Karen Scoggin hail from La Belle, Missouri. They came to Pennsylvania to visit a  son and daughter-in-law who live near Allentown. “They dropped us off in Philadelphia to get rid of us for the day. There’s too much to see here in a day, unfortunately,” Randy said. Back in La Belle, Randy is a farmer and Karen is a teacher. They live 10 miles from a slice of pizza (at a gas station), and 35 miles from the nearest town. They’re still getting used to all the skyscrapers and all the traffic.

“We’ve seen the [Rocky] movies and everything,” said Randy. Still, Karen wasn’t feeling the statue. “I don’t think it quite goes with what it’s all about. That’s not what I think of when I think of Philadelphia.”

“The reason we wanted to come here was the historical [side],” Karen continued. She noted how stunning the Art Museum is. “The architecture that preserves the history— it’s a step back that humbles you a little. This doesn’t humble you,” she said of the sculpture.

“It’s quite shallow don’t you think?” she asked her husband.

“Well, whatever,” Randy replied. “They gotta bring tourists in.”

Cassie Owens is a reporter/curator for She was assistant editor at Next City and has contributed to Philadelphia City Paper, Metro, the Jewish Daily Forward, The Islamic Monthly and Spoke,...