Following last week’s editorial, “Let answers be heard,” President Theobald and administrators invited The Temple News’ Editorial Board to a follow-up interview that Theobald said would answer any questions we had about the building of a stadium on Main Campus, for the sake of transparency.
We’ve consistently reported on the community’s involvement—or lack thereof—in the discussion. In November, an administrator, William Bergman, told us “several private dinners” were being held to inform community members that the university was exploring the construction of a stadium. In a November interview, Theobald shared preliminary financial and athletic details and addressed community concerns. He said the university reached out to the community for the first time that week.
“Things are still very preliminary. We haven’t had the neighborhood conversations, well, we just started them,” Theobald told us then.
Yet, in our interview last week, Theobald said community input would not begin until the university could present residents with renderings, data and the results of an environmental impact assessment, for which the Board of Trustees approved $1 million in funding at a special meeting on Feb. 8.
Our questions about community involvement thus far were redirected to Joyce Wilkerson, Theobald’s top adviser on community relations.
At the Feb. 8 meeting, some residents expressed concerns about homes being seized by eminent domain—the stadium is being built entirely on Temple-owned property—while others believed the stadium would be built on property formerly occupied by William Penn High School, at Broad and Master streets.
Wilkerson told us yesterday the current channels used to spread information through the community might not be ideal, or completely effective. She added that while she too is trying to be transparent about the process, until last week, there was nothing to tell.
“It’s hard for people to go out and say, ‘We’re going to build a stadium,’” Wilkerson said, without first having details of the stadium, like the height, usage and proximity to current homes pinned down.
A task force consisting of students, faculty, administrators and community members will propose uses for the facility, but Theobald couldn’t confirm the number of people on the task force, or the ratio of representation. Wilkerson said it will meet sometime this week, but she couldn’t confirm any further details.
Wilkerson told us four block captains had been sent to New Orleans to see Yulman Stadium at Tulane University—a stadium similar to what Temple wants—information not widely known by community members or by us, until now.
The construction of Anderson Hall in the late 1960s, which was built on some property seized by eminent domain, set a negative tone for community relations with the university, which is still felt today, she said.
There’s no community development corporation or similar organization in North Philly with the clout to oppose the stadium. Filling some of that void is the “Stadium Stompers,” a group of students and neighbors who meet at the Church of the Advocate on Diamond Street near 18th. The group, Wilkerson says, is not necessarily representative of the community’s voice.
We know some concrete details: location, plans for funding and design challenges. Through all of this, administrators have stressed that talks are still preliminary, yet some consistent answers are offered.
But when it comes to the community, all we really know is that talks are preliminary, and not much outreach, if any, has happened since it allegedly began in November. The Feb. 8 meeting showed many community members remain in the dark.
History has shown us the community-university relationship hasn’t been productive. We see now that not much has changed. If the university doesn’t recognize the seriousness of this decision and involve those affected before a plan is in place, that relationship won’t improve.