Stadium town hall ends early after protester disruption

President Richard Englert speaks at Temple's town hall about the proposed on-campus stadium on Tuesday night in Mitten Hall. | ALYSSA BIEDERMAN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

During President Richard Englert’s first public town hall about Temple’s proposed on-campus football stadium, it took 13 minutes before he had to step away from the podium.

He stepped away amid boos and chants like “liar” and “shame” from anti-stadium protesters in the audience. After several attempts to continue the event and Englert eventually taking the stage for a second time, university officials ultimately ended the event nearly an hour earlier than planned.

The town hall’s agenda included introductory remarks from Englert, a presentation from Associate Vice President of Temple’s Project Delivery Group Dozie Ibeh, an audience Q&A and concluding remarks from Englert.

But because Englert was unable to finish his introductory remarks, the rest of the agenda was never presented.

“It’s disappointing,” university spokesperson Ray Betzner said. “Members of the community have been asking us for the opportunity to get together and hear from the university and unfortunately, that couldn’t happen tonight.”

Betzner said the “conversations are absolutely going to continue,” but could not comment on exactly what these conversations will look like, adding that discussions with smaller groups have been the most effective. The university will post Ibeh’s presentation online later this week.

Englert’s opening remarks were broken into three sections: why the university wants to build a multipurpose facility, the university’s other community initiatives and how the university can “do better” for its neighbors.

President Richard Englert sits on stage after being interrupted by anti-stadium protesters at a stadium town hall Tuesday night in Mitten Hall. | ALYSSA BIEDERMAN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The university plans to “enhance” Amos Recreation Center on 16th Street near Montgomery Avenue, which would sit adjacent to the potential stadium, but a university spokesperson did not immediately respond to request for specifics on the project.

Once the university submits its proposal to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission — which the university said it hopes to do in the coming weeks — it’s likely the proposal will go before the Civic Design Review Committee for approval. If this committee takes on the project, the university is obligated to host a community meeting about the design to discuss sidewalks, pedestrian entrances, trash management and other similar topics.

Englert discussed the solutions to issues with trash management and street closures on Tuesday before ending his remarks prematurely.

He said the university plans to form a special services district that would be run by a “community board” and funded by the university and other partners. If the district is formed, the City of Philadelphia would increase its trash pick-up to twice per week in the community surrounding the stadium.

The proposed 35,000-seat stadium, which is designed 25-feet below the ground to match the height of surrounding rowhomes, will close 15th Street between Norris Street and Montgomery Avenue. Cars will be able to enter the stadium along Montgomery Avenue. The facility will hold no more than seven football games per year and will not host concerts and similar events.

Englert also promised hundreds of jobs will be created by the construction of the project, and at least one hundred full- and part-time jobs for retail, game-day and stadium operations.

Englert was discussing portions of his prepared remarks that emphasized the issues between Temple and the North Philadelphia community before he walked off stage for the last time.

The university is prepared to sign a community benefits agreement to document its obligations to the community, according to a document of Englert’s opening remarks. Englert was unable to talk about this at the town hall.

“There may be disagreements about aspects of this project,” Englert said in an announcement on Temple’s website, a line he never got to say at the town hall. “But I’m optimistic.”

Student Body President Tyrell Mann-Barnes said the meeting was “interesting” and “disappointing.”

“What we saw here is that when people feel as if their voices aren’t heard, sometimes you see people react in a volatile way,” Mann-Barnes added. “That’s because they want to be heard, and I think that’s important to understand. How do you adjust to that moving forward so that people don’t feel this is their only response to this type of situation?”

Kelly Brennan
can be reached at kelly.brennan@temple.edu Or you can follow Kelly on Twitter @_kellybrennan Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews

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