Few community leaders notified before stadium announcement

North Philadelphia residents said they were not alerted before the university’s stadium announcement last week.

The university will “soon file” a proposal to the City Planning Commission for an on-campus football stadium, which would be built on 16th Street near Norris. | PHOTO BY SYDNEY SCHAEFER, ILLUSTRATION BY COURTNEY REDMON / THE TEMPLE NEWS STADIUM RENDERING VIA / TEMPLE’S PROJECT OVERVIEW

Only one community leader said she was notified by university officials before they announced their proposal for an on-campus football stadium to the City Planning Commission last Thursday.

The proposed 35,000-seat stadium has been a source of controversy since the university began exploring the idea in 2015. University officials said they talked with nearby residents about the stadium for two years. But residents, community leaders and members of the Stadium Stompers disputed that, saying the university has not been transparent about the project.

Judith Robinson, the Democratic chairperson of the 32nd Ward, said she was notified about 30 minutes before the university’s announcement by Beverly Coleman, the assistant vice president for community relations and economic development.

The Office of Community Relations could not be reached for comment.

A university official told The Temple News in May that it had formed Community Campus Councils, which meet two to three times a semester. This is one part of the university’s outreach for the stadium, but discussions are only about long-standing issues, like trash and noise.

Freddie Bolden has lived on Norris Street near 15th for almost a decade. If the City Planning Commission approves the university’s proposal, she will live directly across the street from the stadium.

Bolden said she did not know about the university’s plans to submit its stadium proposal to the planning commission. She added that the university has never reached out to her about the stadium.

“If they put that thing up, that means I’m going to have to try to find a place to move to now,” she said. “Right there, where I live, is right in the center of everything. Temple’s campus is basically where I live. They want that land. They want us out of there.”

The university will not acquire any additional land to build the stadium if it is approved, according to the project overview released on Thursday. If the stadium — or “multipurpose facility” that will house retail and classroom space — is approved, the facility will permanently close 15th Street between Norris and Montgomery Avenue.

“I guarantee you after they put that stadium there, soon after, they’re going to want all that [land],” Bolden added.

Three leaders of the Stadium Stompers — a group of community members, students and faculty members who oppose the stadium — said they did not know about the university’s plans to move forward prior to the announcement last week.

“A lot of people in the community still don’t know the details about the stadium,” said Anna Barnett, a 2017 women’s studies alumna and Stadium Stompers leader who lives in Brewerytown. She did not know about the university’s plans.

“They don’t know exactly where it’s going to be,” she added. “There hasn’t been a serious effort to let people know or listen to their concerns.”

In July 2017, the Stadium Stompers had their first and only meeting with President Richard Englert and state Rep. Curtis Thomas. In the closed-door meeting, members said they wanted the university to hold a public community forum where residents and students could ask questions about the stadium to university officials.

Englert told them that he would “take it under advisement,” but a forum like this has not happened, members said. The university has not responded to their phone calls requesting a public forum since the July meeting.

Thomas told The Temple News in July that university officials said they could not discuss the stadium “with any specificity” because the university had not completed its feasibility study.

The university’s project overview does not detail the results of the $1.25 million feasibility study conducted by Ohio-based architecture firm Moody Nolan, and Robinson said she plans to request the results of the study and host a community meeting to discuss them.

Jackie Wiggins, 67, is a Stadium Stompers leader who lives on 20th Street near Diamond. She also said she did not know about the university’s stadium plans before Thursday’s announcement.

“It is beyond my comprehension how they could even think about this,” Wiggins said. “You know what it is? They don’t think about it. They couldn’t be thinking about me.”

University officials are looking to organize a Special Services District around the proposed stadium, according to the project overview. The district would be similar to the one serving the 9,000 residents who live near the Philadelphia Sports Complex in South Philadelphia, which houses facilities for the Eagles, 76ers, Flyers and the Phillies.

The university plans to increase its fines for misconduct, according to the project overview. Students currently have to follow the Good Neighbor Policy, established by the university in 2011, which sets guidelines for how students should interact with the North Philadelphia community. It details rules about noise, alcohol consumption, parties and trash, which are concerns commonly brought up by community residents.

“When we met with President Englert he said he’s been around for over 40 years at the university, in various capacities,” Wiggins said. “In the over 40 years time, he hasn’t been a good neighbor.”

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