Snails have crossed the continental United States faster than Temple University has moved to build a football stadium since the first “done deal” was uttered by a member of the Board of Trustees to a follower in March of 2012.
That was the day that Temple beat North Carolina State in the NCAA basketball tournament. The listener was a long-time fan who made numerous road trips to support his alma mater in both basketball and football. The speaker was presumably well-connected with the powers-that-be at Temple.
Five months of March have come and gone and there has been no public announcement of the “done deals” so many of us have heard for five years. So call me skeptical that this thing will ever get built.
BOT meetings have come and gone and several of the last few have had “rumors” that the stadium would be discussed. Meeting agendas were released and no first “shovel in the ground date” could be found even in the fine print.
An argument could be made both for and against a stadium and former Temple player Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub made such an argument against in this space a couple of weeks ago. My feelings have simply been this: If the university has reached the point where it feels it can no longer deal in good faith with the Philadelphia Eagles, then build the stadium. If it has created the conflict with the intent of going ahead and doing what it wanted to do in the first place, that would be a sad pretense on which to build.
It may have already reached one of those two crossroads. Five years of due diligence could be coming to an end and, hopefully, the university is doing what it has to do and not building it because it just wants to do it.
If it can cut a deal with the Eagles similar to what the Pittsburgh Steelers have with Pitt, then there is no reason to build. The alternative–Franklin Field–is not acceptable. Temple would have to have stadium control on Saturdays for television purposes and Penn, with its $6.9 billion endowment, could not be enticed to give that up to a school with a $579 million endowment.
Fizzy says the “neighborhood does not want it” but maybe if the neighborhood could get assurances that none of their houses would be torn down–and they won’t–and that local high schools like Engineering and Science can play their football games there and that stadium jobs would be available to immediate residents first, then something could be worked out.
Fizzy’s second point was that “Temple doesn’t need it.” If it wants to be a program that gets on television, and LFF’s rent is too high, that point could be disabused.
Fizzy’s third point was that “it closes off 15th Street” but 13th Street was closed for most of my four years at Temple due to various building projects between then Columbia Avenue and Norris and nobody died because they had to use Broad Street to travel Northbound.
No. 4: “Parking Will Be Scattered Around Campus making it very difficult for older fans to walk to the stadium.” It’s not asking much to walk from, say, the No. 10 Lot at 11th and Norris to 15th and Norris but, I’m sure the university could provide a mode of transportation, maybe golf carts, for those who don’t feel they can make it. Owlclub members will probably get preferential parking in the McGonigle Hall outside lot, so that’s an option.
No. 5 is “there will be no common tailgating area” but that’s really not needed. Really, is the tailgating “one common experience” or is it smaller groups scattered throughout Lot K now? To me, it’s smaller groups who tailgate together and go in separately. Plus, students who take up a large part of Lot K now will be funneled to Liacouras Walk for their own tailgates. The official alumni tailgates now conducted under a large tent closer to the Linc entrance can be moved to the Bell Tower.
No. 6 “traffic will be horrendous” doesn’t really apply to football because fans usually don’t get there five minutes before a game. Their arrival is scattered starting with the opening of the lots five hours before the game, not five minutes, with groups filtering in four, three and two hours before the game. Traffic won’t be great, but it won’t be horrendous, either.
No. 7 “don’t take the subway” doesn’t really come into play, either because there is a perfectly good regional rail station located right on Temple’s campus that provides the kind of transportation option fans do not have going to LFF now. In fact, if the new stadium is built, my days of taking the subway to the Temple games–which I have done for 15 years–are over. I will hop on the Regional Rail and be at Temple in 20 minutes.
No. 8 “the Linc has easy accessibility” is true, but a football game is an event lasting from the start of tailgates to the end of the game and that’s an all-day deal. Again, I don’t see all the traffic arriving at the same time. If you want to drive, get off the Roosevelt Boulevard extension and make your way down Broad Street.
No. 9 “Temple will lose a large percentage of its older fans” and some of their contributions. I’m an older fan. They won’t lose me but the point is that the university has 40,000 students now and must cultivate that fan base which really has not been tapped into seriously. This stadium could create the kind of experience for them that binds them to the university for decades to come.
No. 10 “Temple will incur a large unnecessary debt” could be true, but the bean counters running the university say it will be more than offset by combining the money they pay for rent now with revenue gained from parking and concessions and the retail element of the stadium.
To me, there is a larger issue involved that goes beyond signage on the field or comfort in the stands. In my lifetime, I have never experienced a real home-field advantage following the Owls except for maybe the Tulane game in 2015 when all 35,000 fans were screaming their heads off for Temple. Getting 35,000 fans in a defined space on top of the field and making so much noise that the bad guys’ quarterback has to use hand signals to snap the ball is something I’d like to see before I leave this earth. It hasn’t worked for the beautiful new on-campus basketball facility, but maybe football is another animal.
The university needs to end five years of constipation on this issue and bleep or get off the pot.
Friday: The G5-P5 Conundrum
Monday: A Book That Needs To Be Written