All along in this never-ending Temple Stadium saga, there have been two types of people:
The first type, the believers, are the “wink wink, done deal” crowd, saying that everything is taken care of and nothing to worry about. Most of these people live in Virginia, New York and Florida.
The second group, the skeptics, are more intimately familiar with Philadelphia city politics, who have lived here all their lives and who have been through this whole thing once before with the building of The Apollo (now the Liacouras Center).
Those of you who have followed this space for years know to count me in the second group.
The Temple News deserves credit for breaking this story on Monday—really a lot of credit in that no other media outlet seems to care enough about—that Temple officials have decided to delay the project to “further engagement with the community.”
Did you really expect anything else?
From the time a BOT member told a long-time fan at the March 2012 NCAA Tournament (on the very day Temple beat North Carolina State) this was a “done deal” the stadium has been anything but a done deal.
The believers are more likely to claim to have inside information than the skeptics. As recently as May, we were told by those people to “expect shovels in the ground by August.”
Now it is much more likely that those shovels will be figurative ones burying the project than actual ones moving the AstroTurf off Geasey Field.
Here’s the bottom line on the stadium: The neighbors don’t want it and no amount of “engagement” is going to convince them otherwise. There is no political incentive for their representatives to do anything but oppose a project that includes the permanent closure of a city street where the city, not the university, has the final say.
Unlike the Apollo project in the 1980s, Peter J. Liacouras is not around anymore. When he threatened to move Temple out of the City of Philadelphia to Ambler, people believed him and then Mayor Ed Rendell brokered a deal to get the Apollo done. He had an outspoken ally and a respected community voice in then hoops coach John Chaney, who told them in no uncertain terms what their neighborhood would look like without Temple. Too much development on campus has happened since then to make a similar threat anything but an empty gesture.
This time, the city holds all of the cards, owns the card table and has a key to the basement where this game is played and there will be no dealing.
Friday: The Alternatives