Wells Fargo Center
The Wells Fargo Center is a stadium in Philadelphia that is home to the Philadelphia Flyers and the 76ers. It was the host site for the historic 2016 Democratic National Convention from July 25-28, 2016, in which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination over Senator Bernie Sanders, with a 54% to 46% ratio of delegates.
Backstory and Context
The Wells Fargo Center was built as a stadium for the Philadelphia Flyers and the 76ers but has served as a home to countless other events, including the 2016 Democratic National Convention that elected Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for president (CITE). The Wells Fargo Center was chosen because of its size and location. The Wells Fargo Center was also chosen because of the historical significance and safety of the Philadelphia area. In order to prepare for the Convention, the Wells Fargo Center was transformed into a political event space rather than the sports arena it was built as. The arena underwent updates in security and technological capabilities in the weeks leading up to the event. The additional number of people, protestors, and vehicles, along with road closures and additional safety throughout the city, caused outrage in some local citizens of Philadelphia who were not used to the increased traffic.
Philadelphia was chosen as the home for the DNC largely because of its importance to early American history. Brooklyn, New York and Columbus, Ohio were also possible locations of the 2016 DNC, but Philadelphia was ultimately chosen. Reverend, CEO, of the convention committee was quoted saying, “There is no better city, no better backdrop to showcase our party’s values than the birthplace of American democracy” (Terruso, 2016). This quote highlights a central reason as to why Philadelphia was chosen as the home of the DNC. Philadelphia is considered the birthplace of American democracy because of its significance during the American Revolution, when it hosted the Continental Congresses. The Second Continental Congress would publish the Declaration of Independence, which would lead to the American liberation from Great Britain. Due to this, Philadelphia, as a whole, is still seen as a historical landmark with tributes to this across the city, including the historical liberty bell.
Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, was quoted saying, “In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep-rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering” (Livingston, 2016). This quote highlights not only the importance of American History to the choosing of the stadium that would hold the DNC, but also the idea of safety as it relates to the Wells Fargo Center and Philadelphia as a whole. The city of Philadelphia was not unused to events requiring large security detail; it hosted Pope Francis in 2015 (Livingston, 2016). In order to make the DNC as a whole safer, city officials and secret service agents closed down roads throughout the city. As far as the actual Wells Fargo Center is concerned, only people with tickets and credentials were allowed into the building after they had to go through multiple security checkpoints. Banned items included weapons, selfie sticks, balloons, and backpacks (Terruso, 2016).
After Philadelphia was chosen as the location of the Democratic National Convention, a venue within Philadelphia had to be chosen to actually host the DNC. The Pennsylvania Convention Center, which lies in Philadelphia, was considered for the event but the Carpenters Union urged Democratic leaders across the country to refrain from choosing the Pennsylvania Convention Center, due to the Convention Center using unfair labor practices that negatively affected their workers (Stewart, 2016). After hearing the remarks of the Carpenters Union, Democratic leaders chose the Wells Fargo Center as the home of the event. This also can be connected back to the idea of “safety” as it relates to the location of the DNC. Democratic leaders were worried about the safety not only of the event-goers, but also of the workers and laborers required to make the event happen.
In order to host the Democratic National Convention, the Wells Fargo Center had to have the ability to show the events of the DNC to millions across the United States while also providing Internet to the thousands that would be in attendance of the actual event. When thousands of people who are trying to use the Internet are put into an event space the size of the Wells Fargo Center, Internet tends to be slow and unavailable. Those in attendance of the DNC needed access to social media sites like Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter to give live updates on what was happening within the Wells Fargo Center. For this precise reason, the Wells Fargo Center Wireless Internet capabilities had to be completely revamped. This included twenty-five miles of new fiber, 50 temporary WiFi hotspots, and a data capacity 17,000 times faster than the average home Internet connection. This updated technology at the Wells Fargo Center allowed for more than 225,000 Instagram photo posts per second (Fernandez, 2016). The ability to use social media sites in important for something like the DNC that needed its events to be publicized in order to try to gain momentum for the party and the upcoming Presidential election which would take place less than four months after the DNC. All the changes that were made to the Wells Fargo Center began to anger Philadelphia residents that lived in close proximity to the Wells Fargo Center. The influx of people, vehicles, and protestors angered Philadelphia residents (Barkowitz, 2016). These residents were used to the Wells Fargo Center hosting athletic events that, at the most, cause riots after big games between rival sporting teams. They were not used to protestors setting up tents outside the Wells Fargo Center for days at a time.
In the weeks after the DNC, the Wells Fargo Center had to be transformed back into the stadium it was built for and not the political event space it became. Ainyae Stratton, a representative from the Wells Fargo Center was quoted saying, “This is chaos. All I see is signage everywhere and everything. I know we can do it. It’s going to take some time” (Pradelli, 2016) The Wells Fargo Center was completely transformed in the weeks leading up to the DNC, and it took just as much time after the Convention to restore the Wells Fargo Center back into the basketball and hockey stadium it was before. Not only was the Wells Fargo Center changed leading up to the DNC, it was also filled with balloons and signs after the convention ended. The debris had to be swept away before the workers were able to start ripping up the miles of wire that had been placed in the Center.
When the Democratic National Convention came to the Wells Fargo Center, the Wells Fargo center was transformed into a political event space instead of the athletic stadium it once was. The Wells Fargo Center underwent changes in technology and safety in order to hold the event. It was chosen not only because of its importance to early American history but also because it was considered a relatively safe arena to hold the event, capable of undergoing changes to make it even safer. During the time of the DNC, there was an influx of people, transportation vehicles, and protestors in Philadelphia, which caused outrage in some of the local citizens. The Wells Fargo Center was not built to be able to host this type of large-scale event, but the changes that were made to the stadium made it possible. The stadium is no longer just a part of sport history but of political history as well.
The Wells Fargo Center serves as a site of collective memory in the history of Democratic Socialism in the United States due to its relation to Bernie Sanders and his historic 2016 run for the presidency against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Senator Bernie Sanders was tapped to give one of the main headlining speeches on the first day of the convention at the DNC on July 25, 2016 and was met with raucous applause and cheers. His 32:17 minute speech outlined support for Clinton's nomination as well as a promise to continue to fight for his populist platform positions.
Another historic moment during the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center was when Larry Sanders, brother of Senator Bernie Sanders and Democrats Abroad delegate, cast his delegate vote to nominate Bernie Sanders, his younger brother, during the DNC roll call on July 26, 2016. In his brief speech, clocking in at under one minute, Larry Sanders spoke of their parents who died young and led difficult lives and emotionally stated,
"They would be immensely proud of their son’s accomplishments. They loved him....It is with enormous pride that I cast my vote for Bernie Sanders."
Bernie Sanders and his wife Dr. Jane O'Meara Sanders were both visibly moved. Senator Bernie Sanders would later make another historic run for president in 2020.
Barkowitz, Ed. “Some near the Wells Fargo Center fed up with the DNC.” Philly.com, 27July 2016,www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/dnc/20160728_Some_near_the_Wells_Fargo_Center_fed_up_with_the_DNC.html.
Fernandez, Bob. “For DNC, Comcast will make Wells Fargo Center network 17,000
times faster than average home.” Philly.com, 13 July 2016, www.philly.com/philly/business/20160713_For_DNC__Comcast_will_make_Wells_Fargo_Center_network_17_000_times_faster_than_average_home.html.
Livingston, Abby. “Democrats to hold 2016 convention in Philadelphia.” The
Washington Post, WP Company, 12 Feb. 2015, www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2015/02/12/democrats-to-hold-2016-convention-in-philadelphia/?utm_term=.21ed45054d82
“Philadelphia transforms Wells Fargo Center into glitzy showplace for DNC.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, www.post-gazette.com/news/state/2016/07/23/Philadelphia-transforms-Wells-Fargo-Center-into-glitzy-showplace-for-DNC/stories/201607220209.
Pradelli, Chad. “Day After DNC: Cleanup at Wells Fargo Center.” 6abc Philadelphia, 29
July 2016, 6abc.com/news/day-after-dnc-cleanup-at-wells-fargo-center-/1448187/.
Terruso, Julia. “Convention security details announced.” Philly.com, 7 July 2016,
Stewart, Bob. "Carpenters Ask Dem Leaders to Avoid Convention Center for DNC."
Philadelphia Daily News, the (PA), 07 Apr. 2015. EBSCOhost, marywood1.marywood.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=n5h&AN=2W61251405632&site=eds-live.
Holmes, Jack. “Bernie Sanders Fights Back Tears as He Watches His Brother Vote at the DNC.” Esquire, July 26, 2016. https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/videos/a47070/bernie-sanders-brother-convention/.
Liu, Louise. “Watch Bernie Sanders Tear up as His Brother Casts a Vote for Him at the Democratic National Convention.” Business Insider. Accessed May 3, 2021. https://www.businessinsider.com/bernie-sanders-brother-dnc-democratic-national-convention-2016-7.
“The Emotional Moment When Bernie Sanders’ Brother Larry Cast His Delegate Vote - ABC News.” Accessed May 3, 2021. https://abcnews.go.com/Photos/emotional-moment-bernie-sanders-brother-larry-cast-delegate/story?id=40901331.
“Watch Larry Sanders Cast His Vote for His Brother, Bernie, during the 2016 DNC Roll Call - YouTube.” Accessed May 3, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ko4tVc6Jx_Y.
Prokop, Andrew. “Bernie Sanders’s DNC Speech Methodically Dismantled the ‘Bernie or Bust’ Argument.” Vox, July 25, 2016. https://www.vox.com/2016/7/25/12282962/bernie-sanders-dnc-speech-analysis.
Staff, Washington Post. “Transcript: Bernie Sanders’s Full Speech at the 2016 DNC.” Washington Post. Accessed April 19, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/07/26/transcript-bernie-sanderss-full-speech-at-the-2016-dnc/.
“Watch Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Full Speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention - YouTube.” Accessed May 3, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rtXaPV5SYM.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP