Since its inception, the football team has never played on Main Campus. The team has played in Mt. Airy, at Veteran’s Stadium and, currently, at Lincoln Financial Field. It seems, though, that Temple football might be coming home – and that is not such a good idea.
The Inquirer reported on Jan. 5, “if some remaining financial details can be resolved, a go-ahead for a 30,000-seat, on-campus facility could come as early as this spring.” In 2017, Temple’s contract with The Linc will be up, and the university will likely have to decide to renew its current lease that is set to double, or build a stadium on or near Main Campus. The lease has been reported to cost between $1 to $1.5 million.
Stadiums built for similar universities to Temple, coupled with a changing college football landscape makes building a new football stadium a big gamble with an unlikely payout.
As the Inquirer reported, the University of Akron proved that building an on-campus stadium has its drawbacks.
Akron’s stadium was built in 2009 with a 27,000 student capacity. Its 2009 average attendance was approximately 17,000, but by 2012, it was down to just over 9,000. The University of Akron may be just an average team in terms of performance in its conference, but a winning record was not the factor that drove fans away.
For now, at Akron, student interest has just not supported the building of the stadium. To get students in the door, to a free game nonetheless, the university had to utilize gimmicks such as free tuition to one student who attended. Temple’s situation looks eerily similar to this. Attendance for 2014, with the exception of the home opener, does not reflect a necessity to build a 30,000 seat stadium and critics of the new plan speculate that the reported attendance figures may be exaggerated.
The University of Pittsburgh, a school similar to Temple in its metro setting, student population size and its contract with an NFL stadium, reported that it was also struggling with attendance. The school has finally succeeded in filling the 10,000-seat student section, but much of Heinz Field remains empty.
College football also appears to be changing in ways that could be rather drastic. The New York Times reported that high-budget universities are petitioning the National Collegiate Athletic Association to allow for an increase in the number of scholarships schools can offer their athletes, which could stop the recruiting progress schools like Temple have made in recent years.
Until the kinks are worked out and decisions are finalized in the NCAA, it would be a hasty move for Temple to build a football stadium on Main Campus.
Temple cannot afford to keep up with these large football schools if these new allowances pass – Temple has a budget around $40 million, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education, to compete with budgets upward of $100 million at top schools. Although Temple remains in the Top 50 for recruiting athletes last year, if the school spirit isn’t there, we can say goodbye to our visions of a grand football stadium packed to capacity with screaming fans. The harsh reality is that it could very easily become a sparsely populated home for a team of decent football players.
Another point, having nothing to do with football at all, is the continuous strain between the university and the surrounding neighborhoods. In a time where university housing built up Morgan Hall instead of building out, North Philadelphia simply cannot spare the space.
In another universe than our plot in North Philadelphia where interest is higher for the football program and Temple has larger financial resources to compete with the richest football schools, building a stadium on campus seems like a great idea. It would be a great source of amusement and pride if every weekend saw a stream of students filing into the Owls’ new stadium on Main Campus, but that weekend is still some time away.
To build a new football stadium on Main Campus is an attractive idea, but with that attraction comes a huge risk – one that isn’t likely to pay off.
Vince Bellino can be reached at email@example.com