Community and student collaborative organization “Stadium Stompers” held an open forum for comment against Temple’s proposed stadium Thursday night at the Church of the Advocate at 1801 W. Diamond St.
A crowd of 150 to 200 people gathered in the main sanctuary of the Church for the two-hour-long meeting. A panel of lifelong resident Ruth Birchett, sophomore English major Philip Gregory and former Temple professor Anthony Monteiro discussed the issue of Temple’s proposed on-campus stadium.
Testimony against the stadium was given by nearly two dozen people during the meeting.
Formal invitations were sent to the Board of Trustees, President Theobald and Temple Student Government. No trustee or representative for Temple attended the meeting.
A protest for March 15 on Liacouras Walk outside Sullivan Hall during the Board of Trustees meeting was announced. The protest will begin at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Invitations were also sent to local politicians, but only a Rep. Curtis Thomas, a Democrat who represents the 171st District attended. The representative provided Thomas’ recommendations and read them to the crowd.
“My office will remain committed to stand with, for, and on behalf of the community,” Thomas wrote in his recommendation to ‘Stadium Stompers’ to stop the Temple stadium. “We will follow the direction of the community since we can’t scratch where we don’t itch and we can’t dance to music we don’t understand.”
Possible challenges the “Stadium Stompers” can try include challenges legally, challenges sent to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, City Council, House and Senate Oversight committees, the state’s Department of Transportation, Department of Community and Economic Development and Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.
Chants of “enough is enough” and “not on our watch” were led by head of Page Street Garden Residential Association Will Mundy.
“I want to stop the stadium being built,” said Tyrone Shamwell, who lives on 22nd near Norris streets. “I’ve been around here for 54 years now, all of my life. It’s not going to affect me directly where I live, but it really will affect me because I live in this community, so I’m here to support.”
Shamwell said it was “unbelievable” university trustees didn’t attend the meeting despite invitation.
Students from Building Relationships in Communities and 15 Now gave testimony against the stadium.
“When I applied here, I didn’t say ‘Oh, Temple has a great football team,’” sophomore English major and “Stadium Stomper” leader Philip Gregory said. “Because let’s be honest, we’re not going to be good for that long.”
“I didn’t come to Temple because they ‘have a lot of green space here,’” he added. “We’re in North Philadelphia, there are no trees. I came to Temple because I think it’s special…I want ‘us’ and ‘them’ [Temple and community relations to become] just ‘us.’”
Pele Irgangladen, leader of the “Stadium Stompers,” said they have collected 300 to 400 signatures on a petition against the stadium. Once there are 2,000-3,000 signatures and 1,000 active participants in the group, he said their movement would be successful.
“We don’t think a petition’s going to stop the stadium,” he added. “We think hundreds to thousands of people taking back their neighborhood will.”
Irgangladen said his organization wasn’t surprised Temple representatives did attend the forum last night.
“[The Board of Trustees and others invited] have shown from the outset that they are not interested in community voices, and they would rather shut down and hide the community then lift up the community,” he said.
Irgangladen said his organization understands the $60 million in fundraising needed to fund the stadium is not money that can be funded elsewhere like calls for a sexual assault crisis center or $15 an hour, but that Temple’s priorities should be on those things instead.
Sophomore political science and Latin American studies major Shannon Meyers attended the Stadium Stompers meeting, the first one she has gone to. Meyers said she had not heard about the conflicts and history of what had happened between the community and Temple administration when creating the Liacouras center.
“I think it’s going to be detrimental to the community,” Meyers said. “I wanted to be involved in the process of trying to stop it.”
“I hear ‘what is the compromise?’ ‘what will you settle for?’” Church of the Advocate Rev. Renee McKenzie said during the meeting. “The only thing we will settle for is no stadium. We are not in this to lose, we’re in this because we know that we can win it.”
Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick.
Video by Harrison Brink.