As Art Museum Renovations Begin, Are “The Rocky Steps” Doomed?

Oct 28, 2016 | Articles

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Rocky fans have expressed concern this month after recent news articles reported on the upcoming major changes planned for Philadelphia’s number-one Rocky tourist destination, the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Upcoming plans focus on what the Philadelphia Inquirer has described as “a big face-lift”, incorporating monumental changes to the interior of the building.

Designed by architect Frank Gehry in 2006, the museum’s $196 million core renovation project will begin its development in early 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2020.

Signs of construction are reportedly already visible outside the Philly landmark. Art lovers will be pleased to know that nearly all of the museum’s public collection will continue to be accessible throughout the renovation period.

Additional updates about navigating around the exterior of the museum and tracking down collections housed within will be made available in the new year.

The Design That Could Destroy the Rocky Steps

Back in the summer of 2014, the museum revealed several renovation concepts for the future which could alter portions of the exterior, including one option which – if officially decided upon – would cause significant changes to the face of the “Rocky Steps”.

One model showed the expansion of galleries located under the museum’s east terrace, which would create change near the steps, while another model’s changes would end before reaching the area of the steps.

The single suggested design change which caused a mighty stir among Rocky fans and many Philadelphia citizens was a model in which a major portion of the center of the steps would be removed, revealing a 24′ foot high window.

“This design proposes the idea of opening up a vista that would take you through the galleries and enable you to look at Logan Circle,” explains Norman Keyes, the museum’s Director of Communications. “This is the option that would involve a cutout.”

Proposed Cutout Design to the Rocky Steps

The Steps that Embody Rocky’s Spirit

“You don’t have to particularly like the movie and a lot of people who run aren’t necessarily Rocky fans,” said Pulitzer prize winner Michael Vitez, author of “Rocky Stories” in an interview with The Philadelphia Tribune.

“A lot of the people who run know that even if they have not seen the movie, they sort of know what the steps represent, that’s why they run. I do think that Rocky and Philadelphia are like Ben Franklin (and the city): they’re just connected and inseparable.”

The entrance steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art hold a sacred place in the hearts of Rocky fans the world over – representing the one place where fighters from all walks of life can congregate to experience Rocky’s indomitable spirit when they climb to the top of those 72 steps.

“You can’t borrow Superman’s cape. You can’t use the Jedi laser sword. But the steps are there. The steps are accessible. And standing up there, you kind of have a piece of the Rocky pie,” writes Sylvester Stallone in his foreword to “Rocky Stories”, Vitez’ popular book chronicling the real-life stories of people who made the pilgrimage to Philadelphia to run the steps.

The Big Question: Are the Rocky Steps in Danger?

As construction begins on the massive interior renovations, fans of the museum can rest assured that the steps are safe, with no plans set in stone which would alter their appearance.

“The cutout is an option that was discussed,” the museum’s Director of Communications explained to us. “But the upcoming construction focusing on the core project is a phase entirely within the current building over the next four years.”

Mr. Keyes describes the steps “cutout” idea as something that is merely under discussion as an option – not a plan.

If and when this topic is revisited again, it will likely be far in the future once the dust has settled on the museum’s core project.

In the meantime, just to express your support of the Rocky Steps just as they are, you’re welcomed to add your name to a petition to Save the Rocky Steps.


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