Conflicting statements between President Theobald and the Philadelphia Eagles concerning negotiations regarding the football team’s lease of Lincoln Financial Field raised eyebrows last week amid the university’s continued interest to build an on-campus football stadium.
Theobald’s statements were published in the Chronicle of Higher Education on April 10, in which he said the Eagles were looking to double the team’s rent to $3 million per year, on top of $12 million up-front to pay for renovations to the 68,500-seat stadium.
“We’re not about to give them that kind of money,” Theobald told the Chronicle. “They clearly believe we do not have a viable option.”
Theobald had openly spoke about his desire to build a football stadium on Main Campus that would be complete by the time the university’s contract with the Eagles ends in 2018. In addition, Theobald had spoken about the possibility of agreements being struck to compete at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field.
Citing the president’s travel schedule, Assistant Vice President of University Communications Ray Betzner declined to make the president available for comment, but said the president stands by his statements.
A scheduled interview with Athletic Director Kevin Clark was canceled.
The Eagles, who also could not be reached for comment last week, told multiple media outlets, including the Chronicle, that they were blindsided by the president’s statements.
“In our last meeting, Dr. Theobald asked us to give them time,” Eagles President Don Smolenski said in a statement given to the Inquirer. “We have not heard from them since. We do not consider statements in the press to be negotiations with us and we are mystified as to why Temple hasn’t communicated with us on this subject in over a year.”
Theobald traveled to Washington earlier this month to speak with the Chronicle about his Fly-in-4 initiative when he was asked about negations with the Eagles, Betzner said. The statements have since drawn criticism from those who say the president is posturing to draw support for Temple building a stadium in North Philadelphia.
“We are not interested in negotiating things within the media,” Betzner said.
Theobald said in November that the Eagles were looking to increase the team’s rent, but did not cite specific numbers.In response to the Eagles’ statements, Betzner said the university speaks with the Eagles on a “regular basis,” but he could not say when university administrators last sat down with representatives from Eagles to discuss rent negotiations, or whether Theobald would even have been present at those discussions.
Betzner called the university’s relationship with the Eagles “very strong.”
He said a decision on where the Owls will play past 2018 will be made through a combination of factors including finances and fan experience.
The university is preparing to unveil its Visualize Temple campaign – a project that is expected to include millions of dollars in campus projects – later this year, although it appears that a football stadium will not be a part of the initial announcement.
Betzner did not give a timeframe for when Temple plans on concluding negations with the Eagles concerning the team’s future at the Linc. He added that the university has not yet reached out to other venues regarding leasing options.
John Moritz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JCMoritzTU.