Temple Owl football season takes flight, stadium plans still far from end zone

Temple's live mascot Stella looks on prior to the first half of an NCAA college football game against the Connecticut

Temple's live mascot Stella looks on prior to the first half of an NCAA college football game against the Connecticut

Temple University kicks off its football season Friday night against Army. It’s a home game, which means fans will head to Lincoln Financial Field in South Philadelphia, as they have for several years now.

In meantime, the university’s board of trustees is quietly moving forward with plans to build a  stadium on campus, though it’s unclear if or when that might happen — or what impact a major shakeup in university leadership could have on the project.

To date, Temple’s board of trustees has approved spending $1.25 million on a feasibility study. That total represents a $250,000 bump from the original cost. The additional funds, approved by the board in July, will be used to address traffic and parking.

“That’s in response to concerns that came up from conversations that we’ve been having with residents about the stadium as part of the broader process,” said university spokesman Ray Betzner.

The study is reportedly slated to wrap up by the end of summer, but, officially, there’s no deadline. Ditto for breaking ground on a stadium.

Betzner was tight-lipped when asked a broader question about the university’s goals for the stadium.

Kevin Feely, a board spokesman, declined comment.

Temple has a lease with the Philadelphia Eagles to use Lincoln Financial Field through 2019. The school pays more than a $1 million a year, said board chairman Patrick O’Connor

Under that agreement, Temple doesn’t profit from parking or concessions. It would if a new stadium were built.

“We believe, all in, it will be less expensive than what we pay at the Linc on a yearly basis,” said O’Connor in an interview last October.

Temple wants to build a stadium on a university-owed lot behind the Liacouras Center on Broad Street. It could cost up to $130 million and would be covered by public and private dollars, as well as loans.

Betzner declined to provide a figure for how much of that total the school currently has in hand.

“Temple has had a number of conversations with individuals about private support for the stadium. Those conversations continue. Any commitments are contingent on approval of the project,” said Betzner in an email.

A spokesman for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said last fall that the administration has made “no decisions about higher education capital projects.” That hasn’t changed.

The same can’t be said for Temple’s leadership structure.

In late July, Neil Theobald resigned the presidency just before the board was expected to vote him out of office. Theobald was a big proponent of the stadium.

A month earlier, the school cut ties with its provost the same day it acknowledged a costly problem with its financial aid budget.

Whether there’s community support for the project — a critical component for city politicians such as Mayor Jim Kenny and City Council President Darrell Clark — remains to be seen.

Anna Barnett, a senior at Temple and founding member of The Stadium Stompers group opposing construction, said her coalition of students, professors and residents would continue to fight what she called a “vanity project.”

“It just doesn’t make sense to put a stadium in a residential area,” said Barnett. “We can already use the Linc. It’s already really congested. There’s so much traffic.”

Last season, the Owls went 10-4, its best season in years. The team started the season with seven straight wins and made it to the postseason. The squad played the Toledo Rockets in the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl, but lost.

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