After City Council President Darrell Clarke announced his opposition of the university’s on-campus stadium proposal last week, Vice President of Public Affairs Bill Bergman said he believes he can show North Philadelphia residents that the community will benefit from an on-campus stadium.
Bergman — who President Richard Englert said will serve as a liaison with the community for the stadium project in his town hall speech earlier this month — told The Temple News on Monday that the university is committed to entering into a legally binding community-benefits agreement.
A community benefits agreement is a contract between an entity and the surrounding neighborhood that requires the entity to provide certain specified incentives to gain the support of local residents for a project.Bergman said a community-benefits agreement could be used in this case to make the university responsible for issues of trash, noise and other issues resulting from an on-campus stadium.
“Anything you say you’re going to do you have to put down in a written document,” Bergman said. “We would gladly enter into that at any given time, but all the neighbors would need to get together and try and do that.”
Still, Bergman said he does not see “legitimate missteps” on behalf of the university regarding last month’s town hall that was hosted five days after an anti-stadium townhall by community residents.
“Right now, it’s obvious there are people that are not happy with [the stadium], and I think the way we tried to present in that large setting was extremely difficult,” Bergman said. “I thought there was a great deal of people there who wanted to see the presentation.”
The best strategy moving forward, Bergman said, is to hold many meetings with small groups of community residents. At the university’s most recent meeting with residents from 15th and Page streets — which is close to where the stadium would be built — said their main concern was increased traffic, Bergman said.
The university has yet to release the results of a $1.25 million feasibility study, which is said to include plans for traffic, parking and elements of the stadium’s design. The Board of Trustees approved the funds for the study in October 2015.
The 35,000-seat stadium is proposed to built between Norris Street and Montgomery Avenue and 15th and 16th streets. 15th Street is the only uninterrupted southbound street in Philadelphia.
Dozie Ibeh, the associate vice president of Temple’s Project Delivery Group, told PlanPhilly last week that an unreleased study determined traffic would not be an issue for residents if 15th Street was closed to build the stadium. The number of vehicles that use 15th Street at peak hours — about 310 — could instead be directed to Broad Street, which sees about 3,000 vehicles at peak hours, Ibeh told PlanPhilly.
Ibeh was supposed to give a presentation about the results of the feasibility study at Englert’s town hall earlier this month, but did not since it ended early.
As 5th District Councilman, Clarke would have to introduce the legislation to City Council to close 15th Street for the stadium project to continue. But Clarke said he is not convinced the university has properly communicated with the community, and he will not introduce or support “any City approvals for the stadium,” a spokesperson for Clarke told The Temple News last week.
“What [Clarke] has always said is that he would want neighbors to be in support of it, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Bergman said. “I mean Clarke says, ‘You got to do a better job of communicating.’ Then, we’ll do a better job at communicating.”
Clarke could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Bergman said Temple had already submitted its proposal for the stadium to the Philadelphia Planning Commision. But on Monday, officials from the commission told The Temple News they had not yet received the proposal.
Judith Robinson is the chair of the 32nd Ward Registered Community Organization, which oversees new development in the community. She said Bergman and several other officials from the Office of Community Relations met with her to discuss the stadium about two weeks ago.
Robinson said she requested to see the results of the feasibility studies at the meeting, but was denied. University officials told her both reports would be provided to the RCO before the university submits its proposal to the City Planning Commission, she said. They did not provide her with a timeline for this process, she said.
Robinson added that the group did not discuss a community-benefits agreement during the meeting.