Hoops and hockey fans will have the chance to show support for their local teams — and the local LGBT community — with LGBT nights at Philadelphia 76ers and Flyers games next month.
The 76ers will host Gay Community Night March 1 for their game against the Orlando Magic at the Wachovia Center, 3601 S. Broad St., and the Flyers will stage their first-ever LGBT night at their game against the Minnesota Wild, March 25 at the same venue.
The Sixers held an “Out at the Sixers” night about four years ago, and Larry Felzer, treasurer of Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia and an organizer of the popular summer Gay Community Night at the Phillies, said a representative of both teams reached out to him about relaunching the Sixers event and starting a new Flyers tradition.
“I was contacted by someone who works for the Sixers and the Flyers, and I had really wanted to do the Flyers night before but it wasn’t able to happen, so I thought that if we could do it with both these teams this year, that’d be really great,” Felzer said.
Matt Oldsey, of Comcast Spectacor’s Event Services Department, made the initial contact with Felzer after witnessing firsthand the success of the LGBT event at the Phillies game last summer, which drew more than 900 LGBTs and allies.
“I was at a Phillies game and it was actually the same day that they had the Gay Community Night, and I saw how outstanding the event was,” Oldsey said. “I thought, ‘If the Phillies can do something like this, why can’t we?’”
Throughout the year, both the Sixers and Flyers host similar nights for a variety of communities — such as their recent Jewish Heritage Nights — and Oldsey said the LGBT community should be given the same opportunity.
“They try to market themselves to all different types of groups, people of different religious affiliations or nationalities,” he said. “It’s a good practice to market yourself to every group and every type of person, and I felt like there’s definitely room to include Philadelphia’s gay community; no group should be singled out or not included, because our products can be enjoyed by all types of people.”
Felzer noted that the teams’ outreach demonstrated a step in the right direction for LGBT inclusion in mainstream sports communities.
“They know their fans come in all races, all backgrounds, and it is nice to actually be contacted by them about setting this up instead of the other way around,” he said, noting the LGBT community will be officially welcomed to the games via scoreboard messages.
Oldsey said the upcoming events may help dispel the popular notion that the LGBT and sports communities shouldn’t mix.
“I think there’s this stigma or stereotype that the gay community doesn’t really like sports, and I think that the Phillies game was something that shows that that’s not true, and I think our games could be equally enjoyed by the community,” he said.
About 100 tickets have been blocked out for the LGBT community for each of the games, and Felzer said he’s eager for the events to expand in the coming years.
“We’re definitely hoping that this is something that can grow over time. We’re hoping that eventually we’ll have as many people participating as the Phillies games.”
Oldsey said he’s also anticipating a tradition to flourish through these events.
“I think it takes a certain amount of time to really build up the interest so that after the first year, where people enjoyed themselves, they’re going to want to come back the following year and it will keep growing, and that’s what Larry saw with the Phillies games over the past couple years, and I think what we’re going to see here,” he said. “I was hoping to just start the relationship and hopefully we can have it grow into something even larger, where it can keep improving.”
The Sixers tickets are $20 each, and the Flyers are $30. To purchase tickets, call Oldsey at (215) 952-5280.