Opinion

Stadium talks too segregated

Temple has yet to hear from students and residents at the same time.

PaigeGross_colorIn the last few days, voices from both sides of the current proposed on-campus stadium debate got much, much louder.

Last Thursday, a group called the “Stadium Stompers” held an open meeting at Church of the Advocate on Diamond Street near Gratz to let community members, students and anyone else who wanted to come air grievances and make a stand on why a stadium would be a bad idea.

“A stadium is a symbol of Temple saying, ‘We can do whatever we want and we don’t really care about the consequences,’” Pele IrgangLaden, a “Stadium Stompers” leader, told The Temple News.

Community resident Charlotte Savage, who serves as the block captain of  Page Street between Norris and Diamond streets told The Temple News she thinks the university isn’t being straightforward with residents, saying, “It’s almost like Temple thinks we don’t exist.”

Yesterday, Temple Student Government hosted a forum for students to ask President Theobald and Athletic Director Pat Kraft questions about the possible stadium. Students had to register for the event prior to the start and OWLcards were checked twice upon entry to the event.

Student Body President Ryan Rinaldi began the forum explaining that previously submitted questions had been organized into topics of finances, university priorities, community impact and logistics of a game day.

Twenty minutes into the forum, groups of student protesters stood up and shouted chants like, “Community says no to the stadium, students say no to the stadium,” and “Students stand with the community.”

Theobald and Kraft attempted to answer questions amid chants and yelling, but 45 minutes into the one-hour forum, Rinaldi shut it down after telling student protesters multiple times, “I hear you.”

This conversation won’t be productive until the university facilitates an event for students and members of the community to voice concerns at the same time.

It seemed like half of the students were yelling that they wanted an opportunity to bring community members and students together, to which Theobald responded, “I will recommend to the board that we figure this out, we will find out what they want,” before making a decision.

It was made clear yesterday that administrators have been forced to slow down the stadium talks until they can get other key players on board.

Mayor Jim Kenney met with Theobald and the Board of Trustees in December to talk details, telling the Inquirer he feels the community has been disrespected in the past. Kenney also said he favors Temple playing at Lincoln Financial Field, despite disputes over how much Temple should be paying to play at the Linc saying, “[The Eagles] are not … as community-committed as the Phillies, Flyers and Sixers are.”

While both sides of the stadium debate continue to be clear about their stances, much of the details about the stadium remain foggy or undiscussed. As a student journalist, I find it unsettling that students and community members are still missing many important details about the most basic questions. The forum seemed to confirm this, repeating questions that we have already reported answers to.

We are still left wondering about plans for construction, how many jobs, if any, would be available for community members or Temple graduates, how community members will be included and how close we are to a decision, to name a few. We have far too many to list.

A poll hosted on our site from October through the end of January, with the question, “Would building the proposed football stadium along Broad Street near Norris be a positive step for the university?” received some of the highest number of recorded responses ever: 412 (53 percent) voters responded yes and 369 (47 percent) voted no. While I recognize this poll is not a perfect representation of the student body, it does show our readership is divided in its thinking.

Another concern, made clearer at yesterday’s forum, stems from the fact that the university has yet to host an event where both community members and Temple students and faculty are able to discuss their ideas.

While the board makes some decisions privately, this decision will affect the public.

Many believe the football team had one of its best years ever in 2015. Others say this past season was a fluke and the team might have trouble filling a couple thousand seats, let alone the proposed 35,000. Some say it could drive up alumni involvement, but at the steep cost of more community degradation.

No matter your stance on the possibility of this on-campus stadium, this past week has made clear that Temple has a long way to go before it’s able to say a decision has been made with consideration of both students and community members.

Paige Gross can be reached at paige.gross1@temple.edu or on Twitter @By_paigegross.

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