For several weeks, the Philadelphia 76ers have refused to refer to the Wells Fargo Center by its full name, leading many to believe that something was amiss in the team's front office...
The arena where we play https://t.co/kX67110ROT
— Scott O'Neil (@ScottONeil) May 12, 2015
Perhaps he would https://t.co/JQdtdhxmJI
— Scott O'Neil (@ScottONeil) May 14, 2015
Wonder no more: It's not part of a marking campaign by the team, nor is it a clever ploy by the 76ers to come up with a cool nickname for their home arena. Simply put, it's just business. Or, more accurately, lack thereof.
According to a statement released by the Sixers to the Associated Press, the team has distanced themselves from the Wells Fargo name due to the fact that "the financial institution chose not to become a business partner with the basketball franchise."
Comcast-Spectacor owns and operates the Wells Fargo Center, so it's unlikely that the Sixers receive much (if any) of the proceeds from the 29-year, $40 million naming rights deal that was signed in September 1994. As such, the team (probably) isn't legally required to refer to the arena by name, but considering the fact that Wells Fargo signage is all over the building (and on the court itself), it makes for an unusual situation.
It's been a long strange road for the Wells Fargo Center, which actually started life as "Spectrum II" before CoreStates Bank acquired the building's naming rights while "The Center" was still under construction. Due to a slew of bank mergers and acquisitions, the CoreStates Center gave way to the First Union Center in 1998, which then became the Wachovia Center in 2003 before the Wells Fargo name was added to the side of the building during the summer of 2010.
The Sixers' issues with Wells Fargo go back quite a while: According to the Twitter feed of Sixers CEO Scott O'Neil, 76ers' play-by-play announcer Marc Zumoff referred to the WFC as "The Center" during games this past season. In addition, the team's press releases and game previews/recaps from the 2014-15 campaign take special care not to use the Wells Fargo name. Ironically enough, the Sixers' refusal to use the proper name for the arena will lead to far more brand awareness for Wells Fargo had the team merely conducted their business as usual.
For what it's worth, the naming rights deal for the arena that houses Philadelphia's professional basketball team doesn't expire until 2024, so get ready for nine more years of awkward references to "The Center."