(Philadelphia) – From inside Temple’s Board of Trustee meeting, a low rumble of chants could be heard through the walls of Sullivan Hall.
“Up with community. Down with the stadium.”
A group of around 50 student and community protestors rallied outside Tuesday’s meeting to voice opposition to Temple building a stadium in North Philadelphia. But their protest is not what is keeping plans from moving forward: Philadelphia’s next mayor is.
Jim Kenney said that is he against to the idea of a Temple stadium in North Philadelphia, and would rather the University come to a new agreement with Lincoln Financial Field and the Eagles.
He wants Temple to strike a deal with Eagles similar to what the University of Pittsburgh has with the Steelers, where they use Heinz Field for free.
Temple currently pays $1 million for six home games in South Philadelphia, a number which the Eagles were expected to double when Temple’s contract expires following the 2017 season. Kenney said that he would sit down with Temple and the Eagles in the coming weeks to try and reach an agreement.
TSG president Ryan Rinaldi said that Temple has to take into consideration what the next mayor has to say before moving forward with any plans.
“The University, of course, has the upmost respect for the mayor-elect, and I think the University should meet with him first – kind of feel out the situation.”
The discussion about a stadium at Temple, however, is far from over.
Temple’s Board of Trustees’ financial argument for an on-campus stadium has to do with the high price of playing at the Linc. Chairman Patrick O’Connor said “The cost of debt on that (the stadium) would be less than what we’re paying for the Linc currently.”
The estimated price for the stadium is $100 million. O’Connor says that $20 million of that amount is from the state.He says Board has also been gathering interest from donors, and some have pledge 7-figures. Finally, Temple hopes to receive the bulk of the remaining cost from alumni, and then name the field Alumni Stadium.
But that $100 million is a number which has one student group on campus up in arms and has sparked their protest.
The Fight for 15 group wants Temple to reinvest that money to education and workers, and have rallied support from the local community to try and shut down the proposition.
Zoe Buckwalter, a senior at Temple and one of the leaders of the protest said “The stadium itself is an issue, but it’s also a bigger picture issue about how our school functions and making sure that student voices and community voices are heard.”
But Temple says, they are taking student and community opinion into account. TSG president Ryan Rinaldi wanted to assure the protestors of that. Especially Zoe Buckwalter, who screamed at him from inside the meeting “Student government – I see you not listening to the community.”
Rinaldi said in response; “It’s important for the community and for students to know that I hear them and that Temple hears them. I can assure them that the community’s best interest in being taken into consideration.”
Temple backs up his claims. University president Neil Theobald used his address at the Board meeting to talk about what Temple is doing for the community, especially focusing on healthcare and what The Department of Family and Community Medicine does to provide free or low-cost healthcare to Temple’s neighbors in North Philadelphia.
But for the protestors outside, this is not enough. Kenneth Johnson has been living in North Philadelphia for 56 years. Concerning what Temple does for his neighborhood, Johnson said what Temple has done is “under cloak and dagger because I don’t see a whole lot of it.”
Protestors like Johson and Ruth Virchett, who has lived in North Philadelphia her whole life, say that a football stadium has no place in their neighborhood.
“It doesn’t belong in a residential community. That’s the issue,” said Virchett.
But not all community members are opposed to the idea. June Robinson stood in front of a crowd of around 100 people at a public forum arranged by Fight for 15 to fight for Temple’s right to build on the proposed space of the current Geasey Field and Norris Park.
“Temple is the largest employer in this North Philadelphia area,” she said. “The stadium is on land they already own.”