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.
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:
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.
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.
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