Three Facts and Five Questions

No matter what you call it, the “Town Hall” being held tomorrow night (6:30) at Mitten Hall has all the potential to be either a public relations disaster or a bonanza  for Temple University.

I’m not betting on Hos Cartwright here, though.

Television cameras from all four local stations will be there with the express purpose of finding some sound and fury that would make for good fodder for the 11 p.m. newscast.

If Temple fans who want the stadium show up and dominate the session with applause and support for the ideas presented, that segment would probably find a way to the cutting room floor. If, say, for every 10 people who attend, one voice is against it and nine are for it, the narrative will be “there were some opposed and some in favor” and they will find one voice in favor and one opposed, even if there are more fans for it than against. That’s the way the drive-by media works these days. If no fans show up and only “community” members expressing opposition are there, it will be the top news story of the night.

I think we are going to be somewhere in between those two extremes, though.

mitten

It was pretty ingenious for the university to set this town hall up at a time when the students are gone. Most of the “Stadium Stompers” among the students are from relatively far-flung places like Allentown, Lancaster and Scranton and their activism on the topic probably only extends to the time they have to be in North Philly. It’s hard to imagine them giving up a spring break visit to Florida or time home with their Penn State friends for idealism. At least when idealism is not convenient.

President Dick Englert did not even address the stadium when he talked at the recruiting “celebration” on Feb. 7 so to me, the forum presents an opportunity to answer some hard questions that were not even broached then. Here are five of them:

yulman

Yulman: Rejected by ESPN

How did the stadium shrink?

Two months ago, when the plans were officially released, the minimum seating was going to be 35,000. Now, we’re hearing “between 30-35 thousand (see above video).” Not good. Why is this important? Because 30,000 will make the stadium look like Tulane’s Yulman Stadium and, by most accounts, that stadium was obsolete the day it opened. All of the Temple fans who I talked to and have been there hated it.  It’s nothing more than a glorified high school stadium and the league told Tulane the TV sightlines and lighting almost made it impossible for ESPN to schedule a night game there. Temple should go bigger (at least 35K) or go home, making the stadium look more like successful ventures like Houston, Cincinnati and Florida Atlantic. Moody Nolan needs to come clean. Will this look more like Tulane or more like FAU?

What, exactly, will go into the retail outlet?

What kind of retail will be considered or will the university build five empty franchises and hope that the market dictates the tenant? Some kind of smaller version of Xfinity Live would work, maybe a WAWA. I wouldn’t put another student bookstore or pizza shop in there, though. When I lived in Doylestown, we desperately needed a grocery store in the center of town. Instead, we got five coffee shops that mostly went out of business because wives of the rich guys who lived there always had the fantasy of opening coffee shops. Build what the students and community will need and support.

smuboulevard

Where will the traditional tailgating be held?

We all know that the university is planning to put the thousands of students who now take up a large portion of Lot K into Polett and Liacouras Walks and that’s a terrific idea. SMU has shown how successful that concept can be. Still, how many of the university’s 11 outside parking lots be set aside for more traditional tailgating on Saturdays or are the days of the traditional smaller tailgates over?

What is the timeline?

The university should set a timeline that it expects to meet. City Council approvals by this summer, next summer or the summer after or somewhere in between? At what point does this project cross the Rubicon of no return and what are the options other than Franklin Field if it is abandoned? Temple cannot allow the endless speculation on this to continue and must set some realistic parameters for getting this done.

success

Does the University Have the Stomach to Play Hardball?

We’re not talking about restoring the baseball program here, although you could probably configure the stadium for those purposes if needed. If the City of Philadelphia does not give the necessary permissions, can the architects reconfigure a stadium that would not require 15th Street to be shut down? That’s what is going to have to happen for the uni to pursue legal action to get this done. An argument can be made that if places like Maryland, Rutgers and Georgia Tech have the legal right to build whatever it wants on property owned by them so, too, should Temple.  Hardball–threatening to move the uni out of Philadelphia–is what ultimately got the LC built and the uni might have to play some sort of hardball to get this done as well. Pete Liacouras had that stomach. Does the current BOT?

Wednesday: Eye on Atlanta

Friday: Reflections From Mitten Hall

11 thoughts on “Three Facts and Five Questions

  1. Wowzers, Mike. Your media cynicism is reminiscent of political commentary from a side you otherwise don’t embrace. But in this instance, it’s quite accurate.

    Wild card is if the mayor appears. With his proposed tax increase, he may want to remind all he’s a friend of the people through it all and appear to be very “concerned” about the effect on the neighborhood.

    The downward creep of this project as it tries to placate everyone from each side is dangerous. By the time something is approved, you’ll not recognize it or want to utilize it when it’s built (large assumption on my part).

  2. I’d still like to hear that the plans will accomodate future expansion if and when attendance warrants it. The difference between 30 or 35K wouldn’t matter that much initially. Seems that 30K is at the high end at the LINC now anyway.
    And as far as tailgating, I was at a couple tailgates at FSU in Tallahassee and we were, while not isolated, just setting up tables and food on the medium between parking lanes in one and in a separate parking area closer to the stadium the other time. It wasn’t some big area just for tailgating. Having access from your car convenient to where you can set up is the most important thing, even if tailgaters are a bit separate from each other. And again this was Florida State! Don’t most tailgaters just stick together with their friends and buddies anyway?
    Also, seems that the Fifth Street situation is the most important monkey wrench by far in this whole debate. If they can rearrange the siting to avoid that, as was suggested in the article, why didn’t they design it that way to start with?

  3. Ability to expand is always good, but given the travail to just build something, expansion would set off more protesting due to impact on neighborhood of more auto and foot traffic.

    But then, expansion being needed means people are coming because the program is winning. That could trump everything. Funny thing what happens for a winning program.

    In 30 years, Alabama took their stadium from 70,000 to 102,000. Campus didn’t grow, no more acreage on The Quad. People put up with discomfort to see the games.

  4. It seems that the number 1 concern about the new stadium is tailgating. It will work itself out. Most schools don’t have room anywhere near their stadiums and have buses looping from each their parking lots, At Army, they have lots two miles from the stadium. ND was no picnic either. AT PSU unless you donate a small fortune you are not getting within a half mile of the stadium. Tailgating is the least of the Owls’ concerns, Would rather have less of a tailgate experience and have a packed house that actually provides a home-field advantage. Besides, the last two seasons, they have become more strict at the Linc and have forced tailgates to shut down soon after the game begins.

    • I envision the tailgate scene as being perhaps a little better in the new place. We’ll probably set up in Lot 10 like we do at Cherry and White and head on over 15 minutes before the game like we usually do. Plus, Temple probably won’t shut down the tailgates. They know nobody wants to go in and see Akron and Bucknell. My biggest worry is how many of us will be using canes because this is going to be a long, drawn-out, process.

  5. Temple is adding home and away games with both Akron and UMass to the schedule. We are not gonna need that many seats for either of these two turkeys.

    Does it really matter about the stadium anymore if these guys can’t get some good matchups?

    • It’s a disgrace that Temple has to travel for these two opponents. Drop Idaho and Bucknell from the home schedule and add games at Cuse and Pitt. Temple’s No. 1 goal in athletics should be to position itself for the Power 5 and going to those places and beating P5 teams will get Owls there faster than beating Bucknell and Idaho.

  6. 35k to “30-35k”…ouch. Build it and they will come. They did for the ND and Penn State game and will again. Building a stadium less than 35k would be painful and not hold the pride of the sport (nor student involvement) that the BOT is trying to create. If students see a small stadium it will reek “not important/no faith”. Make it great and the seats will fill.

  7. When the designs first came out I wasnt concerned because I figured it might morph and change and maybe its only one of the many designs. But they keep using this particular one, which concerns me. I know Dr. Kraft was at TDECU stadium in Houston in 2015. It was hands down louder than the 100K at PSU the following year. This stadium design lets all the sound out, if they’re going to sink the field box the jawn in and make the 30-35 sound like 70.

    • Make the 35K sound like 70K. 30K and we almost look as bad as that piece of crap field in Radnor for Nova. Minimum 35K. Dig deeper and add another deck if the acreage isn’t there.

  8. Nippert (Cincinnati) is another good example. First time I was there (back when UC was in C-USA), the design of the place had me wondering how it only held 35,000. Large upper deck on one side (like Legion Field), steep rake on other with a massive press box, high seats in one end zone. They’ve put seats now in the other to boost capacity.

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