Temple University’s football team has never been a hot topic in Philadelphia – or anywhere really. This season is different.
And officials and experts say that could help drum up support for the school’s efforts to build its first-ever football stadium on campus.
Temple is ranked 21st in the country thanks to a 7-0 record – the best start in school history. A win Saturday against ninth-ranked Notre Dame would be blissful for fans. Patrick O’Connor, who chairs Temple’s Board of Trustees, also hopes it helps convince some private donors that Temple should have its own stadium.
“Our alums have been reawakened,” said O’Connor. “Notre Dame is a sell out, and obviously we have a great product, not only on the football field, but off the football field. There’s no scandals at Temple Athletics … and every senior is graduating.”
Scott Rosner, who teaches sports business at the University of Pennsylvania, said having a strong team certainly makes for an easier sales pitch, but he adds it shouldn’t sway the decision-making process, which will include the school, the board, the community and the city.
“The fact that Temple’s football team is having a terrific season thus far doesn’t make the stadium proposal, in and of itself, a better proposal or a worse proposal. It’s not a better proposal because Temple is 7-0,” said Rosner.
Temple currently leases Lincoln Financial Field from the Philadelphia Eagles for more than $1 million a year, said O’Connor. He said the lease is up in 2019, but the franchise has agreed to extend it if needed.
Building a new Temple stadium, targeted for a space behind the Liacouras Center on North Broad Street, is projected to cost $100 million and be covered by a combination of public and private dollars as well as loans.
Temple president Neil Theobald has said the university has the majority of the funding lined up already, including $20 million in capital funds from the state.
Former Gov. Tom Corbett committed the funds. A representative for Gov. Tom Wolf said the administration has made “no decisions about higher education capital projects.”
“We believe, all in, it will be, less expensive than what we pay at the Linc on a yearly basis,” said O’Connor.
If the new 35,000-seat stadium were built, Temple would profit from parking and concessions, revenue that’s not coming in now.
Temple’s 36-member board of trustees is expected to vote on the proposed stadium in December. Supporters hope for a 2018 opening.