Does Temple Need a Stadium? Does N. Philly?

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by Eldon Graham

SITE of the proposed Temple football stadium. Courtesy of Temple Update

SITE of the proposed Temple football stadium. Courtesy of Temple Update

From the 24-floor-high Morgan Hall to the Temple Towers, Temple University doesn’t lack for visible monuments to its progress and evolution into a top-tier academic institution.

If the school’s administration and legion of football fans have their way, the next architectural and campus landmark will be a state-of-the-art stadium for the resurgent Owls football team.

For years, Temple football has been played under the lights of Lincoln Financial Field. However, recent controversies have led the university to seek out a more accommodating and permanent home.

Brandon Lausch, director of the school’s strategic marketing and communications, says, “The cost to play football at the Linc gets more expensive annually and would more than double under a proposed lease extension. Under its current lease agreement, Temple pays $1 million in rent per year and is facing a rent increase to $3 million annually.”

Some members of Temple’s Board of Trustees believe it would be cheaper to build their own stadium and host their own rather than renting Lincoln Financial Field. Projections indicate the construction costs for the proposed stadium costs to be about $125 million.

The office of Council President Darrell Clarke says before any stadium is ground-broken let alone built, there needs to be a “rigorous and respectful community engagement process.”

Regarding how close Temple is in the development process, “As of now, and as far as Council President Clarke is concerned, there is no stadium proposal for Council to consider,” Clarke’s spokeswoman Jane Roh said.

Contrary to some reports, the stadium’s location would not be at the site of the old William Penn HS. The actual site is projected to be constructed on Greasey Field, the old home of the Temple Field Hockey Team, which bounded by Broad Street on the east, Norris Street on the north, 16th Street on the west and Montgomery Street on the south. This is also near the site that was the previous location of the beloved Temple Track that was regularly used by a plethora of people in the community until construction began on it for an indoor athletics, recreation and College of Public Health facility.

Theobald’s Dream

GEASEY FIELD, the former home of the Temple Field Hockey Team, is now the proposed site for a brand new Temple Football Stadium that the university is hoping to build at 15th & Norris. Photo by Eldon Graham

GEASEY FIELD, the former home of the Temple Field Hockey Team, is now the proposed site for a brand new Temple Football Stadium that the university is hoping to build at 15th & Norris. Photo by Eldon Graham

During his tenure, former Temple President Neil D. Theobald talked about what would accompany the stadium upon its completion, envisioning “three blocks of retail space from Pearson and McGonigle Halls to Norris. Norris over to Broad Street along 16th Street. Small stores, clothing shops, coffee shops, books stores. Retail stores for the community.”

One of the biggest questions: Where will the money come from? Lausch says, “Temple has a fundraising goal of $50 million for this project, and those efforts continue. Debt service on bonds would replace current rent payments and would be supplemented by enhanced revenues and cost savings. The funding plan also includes a $20 million grant from the state. The funding plan would not require any increase in tuition.”

During a Temple Senate hearing in March 2015 on how the school planned to cover the $125 million cost, Theobald mentioned plans to receive $20 million from the state. This is when Tom Corbett occupied the governor’s office; as of today, according to a source in the Wolf administration, “no money has been given.”

Scott Gratson, director of communication studies, director of undergraduate studies, and an associate professor of instruction, supports an on-campus stadium. He is in favor because of what it will do for the community as well as the campus atmosphere. “I think Temple is going to invest in the football team,” Gratson said.

Gratson, who has been an associate professor since 2002, is a self-proclaimed “person who doesn’t like football” but sees the value in it. It would be a plus for students that attend as well as for alumni. As a person who is not a fan of the sport, Gratson talks about football as if it is woven into the DNA of college life. “Watching a game is a positive thing,” he enthused, adding that a stadium would increase visibility for the school. It would also help transition Temple into what Gratson called, “a more residential college.”

Community Members Worry

There has been some obvious backlash and concern about where the stadium will be built and how that will affect the community and families surrounding the site. There have been several

THE CAMPUS of Temple University is already going through changes. More is to come if a new on-campus football stadium is on the horizon. Photo by Eldon Graham

THE CAMPUS of Temple University is already going through changes. More is to come if a new on-campus football stadium is on the horizon. Photo by Eldon Graham

meetings with the neighboring community so they can be updated on the process and their concerns can be heard as the project develops.

Some North Philadelphia residence, students and faculty of the university are not happy about the proposed stadium. Stadium Stompers, an organization comprised of community members, students and faculty coming together to stop the proposed stadium, is leading the charge with slogans like: “We say NO to the stadium and NO to gentrification! We say YES to student, community, and worker power!”

Wende Marshall, an adjunct faculty member for about three years at Temple University and a member of Stadium Stompers, is “irrevocably opposed”, to building a stadium in the heart of the north phila. community. “Building a stadium is harmful to the community” she said. It hurts the families that already live in the community and would lead to more low income families.

“A stadium built in an already stressed neighborhood with traffic, noise, crime – drunken students are just displacement gentrification,” said Marshall, who currently teaches intellectual heritage at Temple.

When it comes to the financial side of things, “Other universities have made built stadiums that have not panned out financially,” Marshall alleged. She continued by saying she believes Temple should renegotiate for an affordable rental price of Lincoln Financial Field.

Jackie Wiggins, a 32nd Ward committeeperson in the 11th Division and another Stadium Stompers member, also has strong feeling towards a new stadium being built in her neighborhood. She questions, “Why would they be this disrespectful?” Wiggins believes it is an insult to just announce the university has plans to bring in a stadium without getting the community input or consent.

Wiggins, who lives in the community and close to the vicinity of where the stadium will be built, doesn’t want to see the negative effects it will almost certainly bring.

“What does the stadium bring? It brings extra trash, less parking, gentrification, tailgating, and parties” Wiggins described. She continued, “Taxes have already gone up.” In her eyes a new stadium will only increase things for the Residential neighborhood.

Bringing Town and Gown Together

TEMPLE constructing a state-of-the-art library in the heart of Main Campus. Logically, a great university like Temple has great facilities, and an on-campus football stadium is a natural next step in the eyes of its administration. Photo by Eldon Graham

TEMPLE constructing a state-of-the-art library in the heart of Main Campus. Logically, a great university like Temple has great facilities, and an on-campus football stadium is a natural next step in the eyes of its administration. Photo by Eldon Graham

One of the things Wiggins hopes to see is massive meeting where Temple University divulges their entire planning process to the neighborhood instead of delivering them in increments. However, she did applaud the Stadium Stompers coalition as being the first time she has seen a collaboration between temple University Students and members of the community.

Among Stadium Stompers’ reasons for opposing the stadium is the following statement on its website: “Temple has repeatedly shown disrespect towards the local Black community, pushing people out of their homes and using the Temple police force to intimidate community members. In the poorest major city in the country, in a city with a poverty rate of 30%, a new football stadium is irresponsible and disrespectful. It would displace long-term residents, raise tuition for students, and create disruptive noise, lights, and trash.”

Bringing people together includes people who live inside and outside the Temple community. “I realized that during the Penn State game,” Gratson recalled. “I have never seen something bring people together like that.” He remembers seeing so many people rooting for the cherry-and-white, that they could not all have been students; some “had to come from somewhere in the community.”

Temple University has selected the architecture firm Moody Nolan for the project. Initial reports indicate a portion of the stadium will be submerged. At this time there is no telling what that could mean for the Broad Street subway line near the proposed stadium site.

The stadium will be used primarily for home games, but, according to the university, “Just as the Liacouras Center and the Temple Performing Arts Center host thousands of families at dozens of athletic events and high-school graduations each year, the new football stadium would be able to host Philadelphia’s flagship high-school football games and tournaments, providing a state-of-the-art environment in which to play.” Other uses for the stadium are believed to be used as lecture halls/classrooms. Lecture halls would be located underneath certain seating sections.

The proposed stadium is set to have a capacity of approximately 35,000 seats – about half the size of Lincoln Financial Field. There is no start or completion date set for it.

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2 Responses to Does Temple Need a Stadium? Does N. Philly?

  1. If you build it they will come! Temple finally has a respectable football
    program which garners national attention and is a natural draw for prospective students. Let’s get it done! Go Owls!

    Jim Graham
    B.S. Eng. 1978

    Jim Graham
    November 22, 2016 at 9:21 pm

  2. yeah lets build this thing !!

    doug pederson
    January 3, 2017 at 9:31 pm

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