The Philadelphia 76ers' plans for a new arena are entering a crucial stretch. The Sixers hope that their proposed arena, 76Place at Market East, will soon be approved by the Philadelphia City Council. However, the exact time for when that would happen is being pushed back.

Although the Sixers are not planning to move into their potential new arena until 2031, when its lease at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philly ends, they are taking steps to secure its future and provide information about the project. 76 Devcorp, the development company leading the way, is seeking approval from City Council on the venue that would be built using part of the Fashion District shopping mall, which is located on Market Street between North 10th Street and North 11th Street.

As the City Council began its fall session, activists for and against the arena stood outside of City Hall wearing T-shirts with their respective messages. A truck from the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, which voiced its support for 76Place in March, drove by with a digital display board listing the benefits of the arena while playing the song “Here Come the Sixers” by Fresh Aire, which plays after Sixers home wins.

The Sixers' original plan was to obtain City Council approval for its new stadium by the end of 2023. However, 76 Devcorp spokesperson Nicole Gainer issued a statement Wednesday night saying that they will now push back the pursuit of approval, according to Sean Collins Walsh of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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“We have said from the start that we will follow the city’s lead and we’re willing to take the time to get this right. That’s why we announced the project eight years in advance,” Gainer said, via the Philadelphia Inquirer. “While we will continue to work with urgency, we believe that a winter legislative process will likely make the most sense to allow time for the studies to be completed.”

Delaying the timeline of legislation from fall until winter allows more time for the completion of the impact studies of the Sixers' arena plans, which are being paid for by the team, though its consultants were chosen by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation. The studies will examine multiple aspects of the 76Place project.

Opting to wait until the winter means that the arena plans will avoid a lame-duck session ahead of Philadelphia's mayoral election. Democrat Cherelle Parker and Republican David Oh are looking to succeed incumbent Jim Kenney (who reached his term limit) and the victor will oversee a four-year period where 76 Devcorp plans to finalize the arena design and begin demolition of the mall.

Councilmember Mark Squilla, who represents the district where 76Place would be constructed, told activists that there will be an ordinance drafted for the Sixers' proposed arena and promised to share a draft of it with the community 30 days before its introduction. But when asked for an estimate for when he would receive the draft, he was uncertain. “I'm not sure, so, could be October, September. It could be November,” he said.

The Sixers' arena continues to be a hot-button topic in Philadelphia, compiling both supporters and opponents among city residents and local organizations. 76Place recently garnered encouragement from the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Building Industry Association and generated disfavor from The Shift and the Design Advocacy Group.

There is a strong contingent of resentment against the Sixers' arena project over concerns about its impact on the local Chinatown, located adjacent to the proposed arena site. Activists are worried that residents and businesses would be priced out of the area and face a detrimental increase in traffic.

“Today’s news that developers have again been forced to delay their timeline for legislation, thanks to a powerful movement of Philadelphians, is a positive sign for the no arena movement. This fight is far from over,” said Mohan Seshadri, the executive director of Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance, in a statement.

Chinatown activists's trust in 76 Devcorp continues to be low. The development company has made efforts to show its commitment to the community, namely a $50 million community benefits agreement. Still, activists see the Sixers' arena proposal as just the latest attempt to pursue business plans that would break up their community.

A recent incident displaying the skepticism between the two sides occurred when the Philadelphia Inquirer's story about The Shift's opposition to the arena was deleted without explanation. Speculation that the Sixers pulled strings to take down the story, which was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Jeff Gammage, ran rampant online.

“The article that briefly appeared Thursday on, in hindsight, required more context and more reporting. For those reasons, we decided to take it down while continuing to pursue the story,” said the paper's editor and vice president, Gabriel Escobar, in a statement to Victor Fiorillo of Philadelphia Magazine. The story has yet to be reposted.

David Adelman, the chairman of 76 Devcorp and a Sixers co-owner, and Dave Sholler, the chief communications officer for the Sixers and their parent company, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, responded to skeptics and repudiated the narrative. “To infer we pressured the paper on the removal of a story is completely false,” Sholler said in a post on X.

The Sixers held virtual question-and-answer sessions regarding the arena plan in August and said they will look to hold in-person meetings at some point during the fall.