About three months ago, The Temple News sat down with President Theobald to discuss where the university was in terms of developing plans for a possible on-campus stadium.
Even after a resolution was passed last week by the Board of Trustees—approving $1 million to hire an architect to design a stadium and retail space and conduct an environmental assessment—Temple is still in the preliminary stages of deciding what the facility might look like.
Last Thursday, The Temple News’ Editorial Board met with Theobald to talk about where stadium discussions currently stand.
Theobald said many concrete details are still being worked out, including what the stadium would actually look like, the neighboring retail space design and community concerns.
When asked about tension between residents, students and the university, Theobald directed reporters to Joyce Wilkerson, senior adviser to the president for Community Relations and Development.
Wilkerson said now that the Board has approved the funding for a design of the proposed stadium, community involvement can “really get started.” She said the idea of a stadium is difficult to present to community members when many details about traffic, design and other factors are still being worked out, she said.
“That’s why I thought it was really important to get the [Board of Trustees] to commit some resources so that when we go to the community, there can be a meaningful process,” she said.
Theobald said Thursday while he favors an open dialogue between students, community members and administration, constructive discussion is imperative moving forward.
“My concern is that a free exchange requires two-way communication,” he said. “And in the [Temple Student Government] meeting on [Feb. 1,] there was a clear attempt to keep others from speaking.”
During the Feb. 8 Board meeting, which was held specifically to discuss stadium details, 10 public commenters spoke for around 40 minutes about their concerns for an on-campus stadium. Both Theobald and Wilkerson said the comments were catalogued and the university has already followed up with some of those people.
Theobald said a task force of faculty, community, student government and staff council members is currently being created to assess how the stadium would be used outside of football games. Wilkerson will spearhead this group, which is set to start meeting next week.
Community members have voiced their opposition to the possible stadium since the potential stadium was announced in late October. Many have expressed concerns about issues regarding tailgating, but Theobald said there would be “no tailgating on the west side of Broad Street,” near the proposed stadium site at Geasey Field.
Other issues, including traffic, parking and the overall design are still being studied, he added.
Wilkerson added that in the past couple of months, she and four nearby block captains traveled to Tulane University to see how Yulman Stadium, Tulane’s on-campus stadium which opened in 2014, has impacted the surrounding neighborhood in New Orleans.
Regarding the university’s relationship with the community, Wilkerson said community members’ perceptions of Temple being a “bully” to its surrounding neighborhoods are legitimate.
“You have an institution with 38,000 students and a gazillion billion dollar budget,” she said. “We are a 900-pound gorilla. We hire hundreds of people … thousands of people, but hundreds of community residents. We flex muscle, and may not even realize. It’s true, we’re a big old institution, one of the largest institutions of this city.”
One of the most outspoken groups against the possible stadium has been the Stadium Stompers—a group of students and community members—who meet every other Thursday at the Church of the Advocate. Theobald said although he believes a stadium is the next step for Temple, a debate is necessary moving forward.
“I can understand the people who say no, continue to lease the stadium at the Linc,” he said. “That’s why there is a debate here, because there are two sides or more, so sure, I understand why they would have that view.”
Steve Bohnel and Paige Gross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TheTempleNews.