Temple University board OKs plan to pursue on-campus football stadium

President Neil Theobald estimated the stadium’s cost at $126 million and said more than $300 million would be invested in the N. Broad Street area for a retail project.

Temple stadium 2
Wikimedia Commons

Temple’s Board of Trustees took their first official step toward making an on-campus football stadium a reality.

This afternoon, the Board voted unanimously to approve a $1 million design study for the planned 35,000-seat stadium and a retail project that would surround it on the west side of Broad Street. President Neil Theobald estimated the stadium’s cost at $126 million and said more than $300 million would be invested in the North Broad Street area for a retail project. He said it would compare to the retail district surrounding Fenway Park in Boston.

The trustees, as part of the proposal, said they’d be seeking $50 million of the stadium costs through alumni. They’ll also be seeking zoning and community approval as the design plan moves forward. 

“We are working diligently to be good neighbors to the North Philadelphia community,” board chair Patrick O’Connor said after the vote.

Quite a few people would disagree with O’Connor. Just like past meetings, this one attracted plenty of community concern. Most of the people who spoke came from the Yorktown residential area.

“Black lives matter,” said Tyrone Reed. “Temple you are definitely one of the perpetrators causing us to protest everything so we aren’t displaced.”

Student Deandre Jefferson said Temple was breeding a culture of “white supremacy” and talked about a fraternity party she saw happening in the middle of the sidewalk. 

“Temple,” she said, “does not care about black people or the community they are part of.”

It got so heated that after the vote was taken, one of the speakers approached trustee Nelson Diaz, a 2015 mayoral candidate, and yelled in his face, “You should be ashamed because you’re a black and brown person, too.”

The Point Breeze developer John Longacre, an alumnus of the Fox School of Business, was the lone speaker to express support of the stadium. He said Temple has been asking its coaches, like football coach Matt Rhule, to “make miracles” with the funding and facilities they have.

“It seems preposterous to argue about whether or not to have stadium,” Longacre said. 

Five people were originally scheduled to make public comments but several more waited in line to speak, and the Board delayed its vote to listen to them. Outside, a group of protesters numbering around 30 chanted. Their voices were loud enough to provide a background soundtrack to the meeting but couldn’t be heard clearly.

Temple protest
Mark Dent/Billy Penn

Getting into the meeting at Sullivan Hall was hard enough. About a dozen police officers guarded the main doorway and a side entrance. I had to show an ID and to get into the building and then be approved by security guards once I was inside.

The trustees, who met in executive session before this public hearing, were unmoved by the opposition. After listening to public comment, they did not discuss anything before taking the vote.

Despite the unanimity of the vote, the stadium is still not a done deal. Temple must get zoning and community approval. The trustees said they would seek more input during and after the design phase.

The university will also need to get the city on board. Mayor Jim Kenney and City Council President Darrell Clarke have both voiced concern about the construction of a stadium.

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Neil Theobald