Hundreds march along Broad Street, blasting Temple stadium plan

Hundreds of students, residents and other self-styled “stadium stompers” marched up Broad Street Thursday to protest Temple University’s plans to build a new football stadium on the Philadelphia campus.

The university is planning a $100 million 35,000-seat stadium in an empty lot behind the Liacouras Center on North Broad.

Jacqueline Wiggins, a retired teacher who has lived in the area since 1952, said the proposal has failed to capture the community’s support.

“Why is the stadium in North-Central Philadelphia? We’re already being gentrified, we’re already being sold out,” said Wiggins, joining scores of others who streamed up Broad Street accompanied by marching band drumming and anti-development chants.

“So now you come with a stadium, the noise, the parking, the traffic, the tailgating, the crime,” she said.  “Please. We’ve had enough.”

Tyler Ray’s disgust with the proposed project compelled him to join the other demonstrators.

The 18-year-old lives five blocks away from the planned stadium site that is now an empty tract used as a practice field.

“Temple University shares North Philadelphia with the community, and I believe there needs to be open communication with the community on whatever Temple wants to do, and it seems like Temple tried to keep the stadium a secret,” Ray said.

“It’s just the continuation of ‘Temple Town,'” said Ray, saying it’s the latest affront in a decades-long struggle between the community and the university’s encroaching development.

“I’m a big believer in keeping North Philadelphia alive. Everything that North Philadelphia has done through the years will be absolutely forgotten,” he said.

School officials have insisted that alumni donations will help cover the costs of the stadium, and  money now going to the Eagles for use of Lincoln Financial Field would be diverted to fund construction.

Backers of the new plan, including Temple’s trustees, say that giving the Owls their first-ever on-campus stadium could boost attendance by making it easier for students to go to games, as well as serving as a marketing tool to prospective students.

Those perks failed to sway the marchers Thursday. They chanted “up with the community, down with the stadium” and held signs bearing those words and other messages decrying the project as a scourge on the neighborhood.

A heavy police presence, including dozens of bike cops, mingled peacefully with the marchers. Some onlookers gawked at the mass crowd, channeling more confusion than indignation.

“What are they yelling about? I live down the street, and I have no idea what they’re talking about,” said a young man who declined to give his name.

Not all of the stadium foes object to the idea in principle. For instance, Temple student Anthony Pressley asked why stadium planners don’t look elsewhere for the project, like just south of Girard Avenue, where the school also owns land.

“It’s going to be disruptive to the community,” Pressley said. “Why put it smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood?

Supporters of the stadium do not expect any residents to be displaced during construction. Even still, Temple student Mariama Taifa-Seitu says the school has been less than forthcoming.

“The people who have economic and political power are displacing these people,” Taifa-Seitu said. “There’s no dialogue happening.”

In February, Temple President Neil Theobald said he’d like to move forward with stadium plan.

Temple board chairman Patrick O’Connor has said a new stadium would be “less expensive than what we pay at the Linc on a yearly basis.”

That may be so, said Wiggins, the retired teacher and longtime area resident, but she glowers at the idea of a massive football field around the corner from her home.

“The trustees and the president need to go back and renegotiate,” she said. “It should not be in a heavily residential area. Temple has land all over the place. Go find it.”

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