On Thursday afternoon, Temple announced it will present the City Planning Commission with its plans to build a multipurpose facility, which include a 35,000-seat stadium. The proposed facility will use the land on Broad and Berks streets and reach to 16th Street to the west and Norris Street to the north.

University officials began seriously considering the project in 2015, and this is Temple’s first major move to build the stadium since investing in a $1.25 million feasibility study in February 2016.

The following text is taken, unedited, from Temple’s stadium “Project Overview.” Read our editors’ context and analysis.

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Evan Easterling Tom Ignudo Julie Christie Gillian McGoldrick
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Temple established its football program in 1894, just 10 years after the university was founded. Temple football games have never been played on campus in the program’s 124-year history . The need for a true home football field has been the topic of discussion for decades. Now, with the momentum of a successful program–on and off the field–and the transformation of Main Campus from a largely commuter experience to a vibrant, residential environment, the time is right to bring football home .

In February 2016, Temple’s Board of Trustees authorized the development of preliminary designs and environmental impact studies for a multipurpose retail, classroom, research and stadium project on the northwest corner of Main Campus.

The area to be developed is bound by Broad Street on the east; Norris Street on the north; 16th Street on the west; and Pearson-McGonigle halls and the Aramark STAR Complex on the south. This property is already within Temple’s existing footprint and owned by the university. With the exception of the closure of 15th Street between Norris and Montgomery, no additional land is needed for the facility. The adjacent Amos Recreation Center, which is owned and operated by the City of Philadelphia, will remain.

Core elements of the research and development process to date have included:

  • Collaborating with community members and government officials to address local residents’ concerns, such as noise, parking and trash.
  • A financing plan that includes a $50 million fundraising goal.
  • Identifying significant cost reductions and revenue enhancements related to the project
  • Proposing stadium capacity of approximately 35,000 seats.

In March 2016, Temple announced that it had selected architecture firm Moody Nolan, well known for its responsive and collaborative approach, to lead design of the proposed facility. Since then, the university has continued talking with residents and carefully studying the benefits and impacts of a multipurpose facility with the best interests of Temple and the North Philadelphia community in mind.

Project funding :

Project funding for the proposed facility will come primarily from private donations and bonds, the latter supported by funds that would otherwise be paid to rent Lincoln Financial Field. Leadership gifts, naming rights and other opportunities will be aggressively pursued to defray costs.

Owning our home :

There are many reasons why Temple is considering a facility on campus that includes a football stadium, including the long-term benefit of owning instead of renting.

  • Temple’s 15-year lease (2003-2017) with the Eagles has ended. Temple’s projected costs to play at the Linc during its two-year lease extension (2018-2019) will be substantially higher than during the original term of the lease. Assuming any further extension is possible, costs would only continue to escalate.
  • As a tenant at the Linc, Temple receives only ticket revenue and a small percentage of concessions revenue. The economic benefits of parking, naming rights and signage do not flow to the university.
  • As an owner, Temple will be able to:
    • Manage the gameday experience to draw more students to games;
    • Bring alumni and friends back to campus to see Temple’s stunning transformation;
    • Control scheduling and on-field “Temple University” signage and branding;
    • Generate more football-related revenues;
    • Use the facility as a recruiting tool for all students, including student-athletes;
    • Create additional space for classrooms, research and meetings.

Optimizing the gameday experience :

Temple needs a stadium sized to fit its program.

In the American Athletic Conference, Temple currently plays in the largest-capacity stadium and draws below-average attendance, resulting in the lowest percentage of stadium seats filled for home games. Too much supply limits the ability to drive ticket sales and, as a result, gameday revenue.

Temple’s current stadium has approximately 54 percent more seats than the average of 44,827 in the American conference. At 69,176 seats, Lincoln Financial Field’s capacity is 86 percent larger than the average (37,004 seats) of 13 recently built FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) stadiums nationwide.

The vast majority of these recently built FBS stadiums were the result of the desire to move football games back to campus, and the majority of these recently built FBS stadiums were constructed smaller than their predecessors (an average of 21 percent smaller). For example, prior to opening Yulman Stadium in 2014, Tulane University played home football games off campus at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the more than 73,000-seat home of the New Orleans Saints. Yulman provided an on-campus location and a reduction of 43,000 seats. Tulane has since increased average attendance by 4,100 per game by right-sizing its facility. Similarly, the University of Minnesota, which formerly played off campus in the Metrodome, built the on-campus TCF Bank Stadium in 2009, which has 13,000 fewer seats.

Overall, the trend is clear—stadiums built since 2000 have capacities that are sized to fit the institution’s market and football program’s success. The average recently built FBS stadium has a capacity of 37,561, similar to the intended 35,000 seats at Temple. Ninety-five percent of Temple football games over the past 10 years could have been accommodated in a 35,000-seat stadium.

Eighty percent of football programs playing in recently built FBS stadiums are playing to a fuller house by right-sizing capacity to demand. This provides a better gameday experience and helps the football program drive more ticket sales. These football programs have experienced on average a 16 percent increase in seat occupancy in a new stadium.

Enhancing alumni and fan engagement and enjoyment :

Shifting gameday festivities onto Main Campus is a high priority. Game-day traditions—alumni tents, social activities for families, the team fly-in, etc.—will be hosted in Main Campus celebration zones modeled on similar car-free tailgates that operate successfully at other universities. The goal is to build a spirit of pride and to give alumni another reason to see Temple’s amazing campus transformation .

A true home stadium also offers the opportunity for guests from opposing schools and the general public to gain a better appreciation for Temple’s size, quality and spirit, including how Temple’s mission has created a unique urban educational experience.

Such a multipurpose facility is also in keeping with other changes on Main Campus. More than 15,000 students now live on or around campus. Great universities have great facilities, and a campus stadium would be Temple’s first opportunity to have a true “home game” experience .

Caring for our community :

For almost two years, Temple has been talking with residents and local leaders who live in the North Philadelphia community near the proposed site. Many of their concerns are about noise, parking and trash.

Temple will continue these conversations with neighbors as the project develops.

In addition, President Englert personally met with leaders of the Stadium Stompers, an opposition group, and heard their concerns during the summer of 2017.

It is Temple’s intention to address both existing concerns and those that could arise with a new facility. As a result of conversations with residents, the university has updated rules on students’ off-campus behavior. Neighbor concerns about noise, trash and student behavior were key to informing these rule updates, including higher fines for misconduct. Temple will not tolerate disturbances in local neighborhoods, and responsiveness has been enhanced in the area, as evidenced by the security presence in areas around campus that would be heightened on game days.

To help address these issues, the university is working to organize a Special Services District (SSD) around the project site that would oversee dedicated maintenance and services for the benefit of the local community. It would function similarly to other SSDs in South and West Philadelphia.

The university also has instructed stadium designers to minimize the facility’s impact when it comes to height, lights and noise. In fact, preliminary plans call for the north end of the stadium to be no higher than the adjacent row homes on Norris Street .

Every aspect of the stadium experience, from construction to its day-to-day operations, will be planned and executed with the priorities and well-being of Temple’s neighbors in mind. After looking at other urban stadiums, we are confident we can take these concerns into account and make this a valuable addition to North Philadelphia .

Promoting public transportation :

In addition to the many students who could walk from their residences to an on-campus facility, Temple’s community is accustomed to using public transportation. It’s important to note that the facility will be served by city buses, two stops on the Broad Street Line subway and a Regional Rail station. SEPTA will also be engaged to discuss the possibility of adding resources on gamedays and other strategies to decrease traffic.

Temple has identified more than 32,000 parking spaces in lots with easy access to Main Campus via a short walk or public transit and intends to work with owners of these adjacent lots to help absorb parking needs for gamedays. These spaces would be in addition to the more than 4,600 parking spaces Temple has under its control.

Making it about more than football :

By including significant space for retail—especially facing Broad Street—Temple intends to create a vibrant, pedestrian-focused experience that will benefit students and the community alike. Current plans estimate a retail presence with a combined footprint of more than 28,000 square feet. Temple has experienced a retail and dining renaissance in recent years, with the addition of popular local and national brands, thanks to Temple’s growing reputation and its recent dining-services and beverage-partner agreements with Aramark and Coca-Cola.

Other components of the multipurpose facility are likely to include event, classroom and research space. The research area will support Temple’s leading efforts in concussion prevention and testing.

And just as the Liacouras Center and the Temple Performing Arts Center host athletic events and high school graduations each year, the new football stadium would be able to host Philadelphia’s flagship high-school football games and tournaments, providing a state-of-the-art environment in which to play.

Focusing on true measures of success :

As important as athletics is to an institution of higher education, and as much as Temple seeks to enhance the gameday experience and increase its national exposure with a winning football program, there are more important metrics than wins and losses.

Temple’s commitment to academic excellence is unwavering. According to the NCAA’s most recent data, Temple student-athletes have an 88 percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), which ties the school record set in 2016. It also marks the eighth straight year of Temple either tying or setting a new mark in this all-important area. Temple is one of 28 full-member institutions of FBS conferences that have maintained or exceeded a GSR of 88 for the last two years.

Gillian McGoldrick contributed annotation.