Take note of South Philly stadiums

If the university moves forward with plans for an on-campus stadium, it should learn from the sports complex.

Angela GervasiWhen someone asks me where I grew up, I respond, “South Philly.”

Then, to specify exactly where, I point out the most prominent landmark near my home—the stadiums.

Living near the South Philadelphia Sports Complex provided an interesting backdrop to my childhood. Sometimes, it was exciting.

When Billy Joel and Elton John performed at Citizens Bank Park in 2009, I sat on my front step and listened for free as their voices floated through the summer evening.

And as the World Series came to a close in 2008, my brother and I stood in my living room and ecstatically listened to the stadium’s invigorating roar—which reached our ears well before Harry Kalas announced the Phillies’ victory on television.

But when a sporting event caused excitement, disarray often followed in the forms of post-tailgate litter and parking lot fist fights. Usually it was fueled by poor sportsmanship and an excess of overpriced beer.

There are times when chaos starts in a stadium and extends past its boundaries.

Across the street from Lincoln Financial Field sits Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park, a 101-year-old sprawling space that holds hilly bike trails and rickety picnic tables.

I grew up frequenting FDR Park, but as a child, I was never allowed to ride my bike there if the Eagles were playing football across the street. It was a park that held a world of historical wonder—and a lot of litter.

Leo Sheng, a 2014 Temple alumnus, noticed that litter too. Sheng runs a fishing blog that explores several local bodies of water, like Meadow Lake, which sits in FDR Park under a film of blue algae.

Eagles fans often use the area around the lake for tailgating. That didn’t bother Sheng, until he realized nobody cleaned up after game day.

Sheng said when the Eagles played home games, the park became filthy—like the time a group of visitors in Eagles jerseys approached the lake and began tossing beer bottles into the water.

“I kind of gave them a hard time about that. They became very aggressive that day,” Sheng said. “I see so much going on there. It’s truly a shame.”

Joe Myers, the managing editor of the South Philly Review, said residents have voiced their dissatisfaction with the stadium’s presence before. The Review has received calls from people complaining about the parking lot at FDR, which becomes vastly overcrowded on game days, making the park inaccessible for the rest of the public.

There are systems in place to quell the stadium sloppiness. In 2002, the Sports Complex Special Services District was established to meet what its website refers to as the “unique needs of South Philadelphia residents living in close proximity to an active, world-class Sports Complex.”

Because, as South Philadelphia has shown us, a stadium can have an impact on its surrounding community.

Sound familiar?

The Linc may not seem comparable to Temple’s potential on-campus stadium. Surely, I assume, a stadium for a college football team won’t have as big of a presence as a stadium that hosts the Eagles.

Peter Crawford, a member of Temple Area Property Association’s executive board, compared the potential stadium merely to the Liacouras Center “on a larger scale.”

“I don’t think the addition of a stadium is going to have as great an impact, you know either positive or negative, as people say,” Crawford said.

But according to ESPN, Eagles’ games have drawn an average of 69,371 spectators to South Philadelphia in 2015. The Temple-Notre Dame game on Halloween drew almost as many people—clocking in at a whopping 69,280.

As the stadium discussion continues and develops, it’s important for us to look toward the other side of Philadelphia and see what effect stadiums have created in the past.

Bringing an Eagles game-sized crowd to North Philadelphia may very likely produce the same results I saw growing up in South Philadelphia—a disturbance.

I hope if the university decides to move forward with its plans, it does so with consideration of the community.

Angela Gervasi can be reached at angela.gervasi@temple.edu.

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