Despite a heated community meeting Tuesday, Temple University officials remain optimistic the school can score support from residents for a brand new football stadium in the heart of the North Philadelphia campus.
Temple spokesman Ray Betzner said the town hall, cut short by a group of raucous protesters, was not reflective of the “fruitful” interactions the university has had with nearby neighbors over the last 18 months.
“The conversations we’ve been having have been very, very helpful in getting people to understand what the potential here is, what the possibility here is,” said Betzner.
“Our president has said, on more than one occasion, that he is absolutely committed to a facility that is going to be beneficial both to North Philadelphia and to Temple University,” he said. “We believe it can be done.”
Critics of the proposed 35,000-seat stadium aren’t as hopeful.
To Gail Loney, Betzner’s forecast is “unrealistic.”
“I don’t see where the community support is. Yeah, I am vocal about my stance about no stadium, but I don’t hear anybody touting the praises of a stadium in North Philadelphia, either. Where are they?” said Loney, a member of the Stadium Stompers community group that fears a football stadium would disrupt the residential blocks around it — and possibly displace neighbors. It was her group’s show of force that shut down Tuesday’s meeting in Mitten Hall.
To build the $130 million stadium, slated for a school-owned plot at Broad and Norris streets, Temple will need approval from the city’s planning commission, its zoning board, the Civic Design Review board, and City Council.
The school plans to close 15th Street between Norris Street and Montgomery Avenue and wants to build street-level retail as part of the stadium complex.
City Council President Darrell Clarke, whose district includes Temple, reiterated Thursday that he won’t consider supporting the proposed stadium until the university wins over the community. And he thinks that’s far from guaranteed.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s not going anywhere,” said Clarke.
Betzner said the university is still figuring out how to move forward with community outreach following Tuesday’s contentious meeting.
In the meantime, Temple will continue leasing Lincoln Financial Field from the Philadelphia Eagles for the football team’s home games
The Owls pay roughly $1 million a year to rent the Eagles’ stadium.
Temple President Richard Englert has said building a stadium would be less expensive than what the school pays to play at the Linc.