Over the last few years, the university has been quietly preparing the Baptist Temple, the namesake and symbol of the university, for a full restoration.
Last Tuesday, at their regular meeting, the Board of Trustees approved an initial $3.2 million toward the renovation of the Baptist Temple. According to Marvin J. Gerstein, director of planning and design for Facilities Management, the “all in” cost for the project will be around $29 million.
“Tomlinson Theater is the only place we have that can handle the university orchestra or choir,” Gerstein said. “The music school has a lot of concerts off campus because there is no place where the choir and orchestra can share the stage.”
While in its prime, the temple was a 4,000 seat church. The new temple will be completely redesigned to handle primarily concerts and lectures.
Even though the idea of restoring the temple has been mentioned since the early 1980s, the university did not give it serious consideration until President David Adamany came to Temple.
“It really started with President Adamany’s administration,” Gerstein said. “He saw it as a nice centerpiece to the university.”
In 2002, the university sealed the outside of the temple, which had fallen into disrepair after years of neglect. The aging building was given a new roof, and problems with the building’s structure and facade were remedied.
Last year, the Trustees authorized a pre-design study of the facility. The study found that after the roof replacement the building is now safe enough to begin renovations of the interior.
The temple was neglected during the 1970s, when the university was operating with a huge budget deficit. In the mid-1980s, a portion of the roof support trusses collapsed, and the state authorized an emergency grant to pay for scaffolding, which until recently held up the historic building’s roof.
The main hall of the renovated Baptist Temple will hold an estimated 1,100 to 1,200 people. The main lobby will be expanded to create a space for pre-performance and intermission gatherings.
“There really was no opportunity for on-campus performances,” Gerstein said.
Most of the project is based around making the temple a formidable performance space. There will be instrument storage, a music library, a forestage lift, dressing rooms, green rooms and offices for the auditorium management staff.
“We have the opportunity to make this a jewel for the campus,” Gerstein said.
The university president also spoke fondly of retiring basketball coach John Chaney, lauding him for his tireless commitment to the university, and, more importantly, young people as a whole.
“As tough as he was on the court,” Adamany said, “he had a soft spot for good causes.”
He thanked Chaney for lending his celebrity to the Temple Libraries when they were a cash-strapped enterprise.
“He believed in this institution,” Adamany said, “and its location in North Philadelphia.”
The coach’s hard work was reflected on the court and in the classroom, Adamany said. Even though the program did not always have the strongest recruiting classes, coach Chaney made the most out of his players on and off of the court.
“His 5:30 a.m. practice sessions were legendary,” Adamany said. “He always said he knew where his students were the night before and the next day.”
Adamany acknowledged that Chaney’s temper was enough to worry him and former-President Peter J. Liacouras, but lauded the outgoing coach for his outspokenness about basketball and politics.
“He is outspoken about political issues of the day when others have fallen silent because of economic or political interests.”
Chris Reber can be reached at email@example.com.