David Gould, the Sixers’ chief diversity and impact officer, speaks at a press conference at South Kitchen & Bar. (Jordan Levy/Billy Penn)

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Read the news of the day in less than 10 minutes — not that we’re counting.

Representatives from the 76ers on Thursday joined Black clergy and business leaders on North Broad Street to announce the team would integrate support for Black entrepreneurs into its plan for a Center City arena.

David Gould, the Sixers’ chief diversity and impact officer, detailed a robust training program for potential contractors, a $2 million fund for small business help, and a pledge that a certain number of concessions would be run by Black operators. 

Black businesses have historically been excluded or only marginally included in large Philly development projects, several speakers noted. 

Participants at the press conference touted 76 Place — the working name for the arena proposed to take over part of the Fashion District mall — as a chance to do things differently. More than one speaker referenced having “a seat at the table.”

“I believe that a move of this magnitude will also help shift the trajectory of how big corporations that come into the city will do business, because they’ll have to do business through and with the Black community,” said Pastor Carl Day, of Culture Changing Christians, based in North Philly.

“We’ve got to make sure that we support 76 Place,” Day said.

Much of the news coverage around the arena has highlighted the lack of support for the project in Chinatown, most recently demonstrated through a survey of Chinatown businesses and residents showing near unanimous opposition. The religious leaders gathered Thursday acknowledged there may be other concerns. 

“We pray for all other communities, but we want to focus on the African American community and the fact that we’re 44% of the population, but only do 2.5% of the business with the city,” Pastor Marshall Mitchell of Salem Baptist Church of Abington told Billy Penn.

The African American Chamber of Commerce is partnering with the Sixers on the initiative, and President Regina Hairston expressed excitement about the opportunity.

“We must open every door that is in front of us and take full advantage of every opportunity to grow and expand the [Black business] ecosystem across the region,” she said. 

‘Everybody Builds,’ an incubator for construction firms

Flanked by pastors and leaders from the African American Chamber of Commerce at the jazz club and restaurant SOUTH, Gould announced the following measures meant to ensure Black workers and entrepreneurs benefit from the potential arena:

  • An entity called Everybody Builds, a partnership with, the Urban Affairs Coalition, developers, labor leaders, and contractors to prepare Black building trades workers to compete for construction contracts as they are announced. 
  • A partnership with the region’s African American Chamber of Commerce, launching a $2 million fund to prepare Black owned businesses to operate in the arena.
  • A promise that 40% of food and beverage concessionaires in the arena will be Black owned businesses.

“Everybody that’s up here is also going to hold us accountable to make sure that we follow through on our commitments,” Gould said.

He described Everybody Builds as an incubator of sorts. 76 Devcorp will partner with labor leaders to get Black contractors requisite experience, insurance and bonding, and access to capital to have a robust roster of Black builders by time ground breaks on 76 Place — the franchise aims to begin construction in 2028. 

Money for the $2 million business preparation fund will be drawn from the same pool of funding the Sixers are setting aside for a Community Benefit Agreement, which 76 Devcorp has said could reach $50 million.  

David Gould, the Sixers’ chief diversity and impact officer, speaks at a press conference at South Kitchen & Bar. (Jordan Levy/Billy Penn)

While Chinatown didn’t come up during the press conference itself, Gould answered some additional questions afterward, stating he didn’t see supporting Chinatown and Black business as “mutually exclusive.” 

“We think that this project has the potential to benefit the entire community, [but] we understand that there are a lot of concerns about that,” Gould told reporters, noting that 76 Devcorp intends to “continue the dialogue” in Chinatown. 

Pastor Mitchell, of Salem Baptist Church, stressed the importance of building capacity among Black workers and firms.

“No one, no other community has ever spoken up for us,” said Mitchell. “We’re always looking for allies, but we know Superman’s not coming — we’ve got to save ourselves.”

76 Place: Yay or nay?

Various groups have affirmed their support for the construction of 76 Place in recent weeks, some of the first full-throated endorsements after months of announcements of opposition. 

Pro arena

Anti arena

Jordan Levy is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn, always aiming to help Philadelphians share their stories. Formerly, he has worked at Document Journal, n+1 Magazine, and The New Republic. He...