Temple may have created a template on how not to sell a stadium project to a community. After promising for months to hold a public forum on its proposed $130 million football stadium in the North Philadelphia neighborhood that has watched the university's footprint expand, Temple finally held a town hall Tuesday with disastrous results.
According to Philly.com, it went something like this. Temple president Richard Englert got about one page into his five pages of prepared remarks, mentioning that no one would be displaced by a two-block closure of 15th Street. A protester then shouted, "Liar!" and the 100 or more in attendance began chanting, "No new stadium! No new stadium!" Englert, whose remarks were supposed to be followed by architects' presentation of schematics and then a Q&A, was promptly escorted to safety by police. Rev. William Moore, a stadium opponent, then tried to calm the crowd by stating, "We're not going to make any progress behaving like this."
Englert returned briefly to point out the community-use potential of the new stadium, including a site for youth sports. He also mentioned a "substantial" investment in the area's Amos Recreation Center. But once he went off script to say, "I understand we need to do a better job of listening to our neighbors," the jeering began anew and the meeting was effectively over.
After the aborted meeting, Englert expressed disappointment and resolve. “We’re going to continue talking to our neighbors," he said, as reported by Philly.com. "A university by its very nature invites and thrives on difference of opinion. We’re used to talking back and forth, but usually in a very courteous fashion.”
Temple currently leases Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL champion Eagles, for $1 million per year. A new lease could cost $12 million up front, plus a new annual rate of $2 million. The university claims a campus stadium, paid for through private fundraising and featuring an elevation that would not rise above the rooftops of surrounding row houses, would lift the national profile of Temple football.