Stadium: End Of The Beginning

 

badurban

Seats here are too far away from stadium and not on top of the field like this other example of a great urban stadium within essentially the same square acreage footprint.

urban

Roughly six years ago, a Temple University Board of Trustees member told a friend of mine at the NCAA Tournament that a football stadium on campus was a “done deal.”

My friend has a lot deeper pockets than me and often traveled to see the football team in remote Middle Atlantic Conference places like Mt. Pleasant, Michigan and Oxford, Ohio, with reports about the Temple fan presence there.

Often, he was it–the guy who was invited to home tailgates by the Central Michigan and Fake Miami fans like an alien who landed in a flying saucer.

This December, his move to Coral Gables, Florida made him a more likely prospect than I to make the Gasparilla Bowl and he bellied up to President Dick Englert at a pre-game function and dropped the question about whether or not Temple will build a new football stadium.

“We’ll see,” the coy Englert said.

goodurban

Temple fans should accept no less than this kind of stadium

Well, we saw a little bit on Thursday when the university announced to the world that the stadium is presenting plans to the city for the building of a “multi-purpose facility.” Notice the word “multi-purpose.” If it had been “a stadium” the already negative view of many of the city pols would have been further polarized.

Make no mistake about what happened Thursday.

This is not the end of the stadium process but the end of the beginning. The end is a long, long way away.

It was nice to finally see an artist’s conception of the stadium. To me, that was disappointing. The seats are too slopped back and not on top of the field. Some tinkering needs to be done on the architects’ end. Make the stadium like Boston College here and we’re in; otherwise, where is the Temple home field advantage?

The timeline that many stadium proponents state continues to be: Shovel in the ground by August, stadium done by 2019.

For someone who has lived in Philadelphia all of my life and knows the ins and outs of the corrupt political system here, that’s a pipe dream.

Figure on two years of hassle with the city and a shovel in the ground by 2019 at best. At worst, figure a thumbs’ down from the city and an extended Linc lease. I’m a lean toward a stadium at Temple because I think the ceiling for interest in Temple football is 35K at best. That still looks horrible in a 70K stadium and perception to many is reality.  Still, to think that today’s announcement puts this on a fast track to completion is pure fallacy.

Plan on going to that stadium for the opener maybe 2021 but more likely 2022.

I will have to eat a lot more salads, drink a lot fewer beers and work out about two extra hours a day to definitively  say I will see The Promised Land with you but I promise to try.

From what I’ve been told by my Philadelphia City Council peeps, there are 10 elected members and seven at-large members. For this to pass in the county, there will have to be nine votes. Right now, Temple can count on four. Getting to nine will not be impossible, but it will be close to impossible.

This is not the end but the end of the beginning. The end of the end could be longer than anyone knows. In short, not a done deal by a longshot.

Monday: Five Unanswered Questions

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Another Stadium Misconception

tailgates

The four lots that will no doubt be open for tailgating on game days.

 

talegate

On the list of important issues surrounding the proposed on-campus Temple Stadium, tailgating is about ninth down the list.

Above it are other gauntlet runs like Philadelphia City Council, The Mayor, “The Community” (who knows who represents them, really), the media (an anti-stadium column by Stu Bykofsky appeared recently and Temple haters like David Murphy, Mike Sielski and  Angelo Cataldi, among others, have yet to recently check in) and the unions.

Other than that, it’s smooth sailing to a 2019 opener.



My guess if this
thing is ever built,
it will open closer
to 2021 than 2019,
but the administrators
from Indiana who now
run Temple and never
faced any Philly-like
blowback in Bloomington
will be shocked
soon enough

My guess if this thing is ever built, it will open closer to 2021 than 2019, but the administrators from Indiana who now run Temple and never faced any Philly-like blowback in Bloomington will be shocked soon enough. It will then be up to them to throw in the towel or grind away.

Meanwhile, onto the ninth more pressing issue but one that can be debunked here and now:

“There won’t be any place to tailgate.”

I can personally debunk that because I’ve taken the SEPTA regional rail from Fox Chase to games over the last few years. Since the regional rail doesn’t go from Fox Chase (or anywhere else, really) to Lincoln Financial Field, I’ve made it a point to get off at the Temple University stop and cut through several parking lots and the Bell Tower before making it to the Broad and Columbia (OK, community, Cecil B. Moore) subway station and the 15-minute ride to LFF.

SEPTA_Regional_Rail_map

SEPTA Regional Rail funnels over 100,000 people into Center City every day and has a stop right on the Temple campus.

I can report that all four of those lots (above graphic) were empty or near empty on every single gameday Saturday. That’s where the tailgates will be held.

Lot 1, the McGonigle Hall lot, probably will go to Owl Club members or highest bidders. The other four will probably be first-come, first-serve lots.

The students, who take a large part of Lot K now, will move their tailgates to the Bell Tower and the two walks, named after two guys best known for where the basketball arena is, Peter Liacouras and Dan Polett. Liacouras, because it is named after him, and Polett, whose Wilke-Buick dealership was where the LC stands today.

So the tailgating situation comes under the category of no worries.

The other stuff, I have my doubts.

What Matt Rhule’s Jetpack Has to Do With Stadium Failure

Matt Rhule's Jetpack has been on Go Fund Me for half a month now without a single penny raised.

Matt Rhule’s Jetpack has been on Go Fund Me for half a month now without a single penny raised.

Nothing major gets done at Temple University without it being approved at a Board of Trustees Meeting.

That was true for the Apollo of Temple, now known as the Liacouras Center, and also true for the $50 million basketball practice facility and the $17 million football training facility. To assume that a $300 million stadium is going to get done behind the scenes with all that as a backdrop is a fallacy.

With this Jetpack, Matt will no longer have to take the SEPTA 24 bus to practice.

With this Jetpack, Matt will no longer have to take the SEPTA 24 bus to practice.

Temple people are notoriously protective of what is inside their wallets–perhaps as a Pavlovian Response from spending four years near the edges of the Green Zone (17th Street on the West and 10th Street on the East)–and the strong rumor is that the BOT will not allow discussion of a stadium until $25 million is raised by stadium backers

So another meeting of the BOT having come and gone without a stadium announcement—or even a discussion of a stadium—speaks volumes. Meetings were held in December, March, May and now July without mention of a stadium.

The next question has to be why. For that, all you have to do is look at the funding for Matt Rhule’s Jetpack. As a joke, a poster named “Victory Engineer”  set up a “Go Fund Me” for a Matt Rhule Jetpack on July 3 and posted it on Owlsdaily.com. It has been seen by nearly 2,000 viewers and raised a grand total of zero dollars.

You would think someone, even as a joke, would have given five bucks in two weeks but, so far, nothing.

What does this have to do with a stadium?

Temple people are notoriously protective of what is inside their wallets–perhaps as a Pavlovian Response from spending four years near the edges of the Green Zone (17th Street on the West and 10th Street on the East)–and the strong rumor is that the BOT will not allow discussion of a stadium until $25 million is raised by stadium backers. So far, that figure has fallen far short—about $24 million short—and, at this rate, a stadium will not be discussed until the October meeting.

October, 2068.

It’s time to extend the Lincoln Financial Field lease now and worry about a stadium later.

As far as Matt Rhule’s Jetpack, that has a much better chance of happening on Sept. 6 should the result of the Penn State game turn out to be in the Owls’ favor.

Related:

Get coach Rhule His Jetpack

Why July 14 is the Most Important Date in Temple Sports History

If recent Temple hires in key positions are any clue, the stadium going up at 15th and Norris should look something like this.

If recent Temple hires in key positions are any clue, the stadium going up at 15th and Norris should look something like this.

Usually the middle of July is a dead period in sports as baseball is in the middle of an all-star break, NFL training camp has not started and the NBA, NHL and college football are a couple months away.

For Temple University, though, July 14th might be the most important day in its sports history. That’s because the school’s Board of Trustees will hold a rare meeting amid rumors that there could be talk of an on-campus stadium on the agenda.

meetingminutes

Even if a stadium is not on the docket that could be more telling than if it is because the school’s BOT let a May meeting, a March meeting and a December meeting come and go with no discussion of a stadium. If it is not on this agenda, there likely will be no stadium because the next meeting after this one is in October and the school’s 15-year lease with the Philadelphia Eagles to rent Lincoln Financial Field expires at the end of the 2017 season.

Temple fans on sports message boards seem obsessed with the topic as seemingly innocuous discussion threads get turned into stadium ones at the drop of a hat. When it comes to the people who really matter, the BOT, the topic hasn’t even moved the needle. There were meetings on December 9th, March 11th and May 12th and not a word on the stadium at any of them. That could all change on Tuesday. Or not.

Since the last meeting on May 12, former Indiana University chief bean counter (CFO), Neil Theobald, the current Temple president, kicked a former Indiana U. aide, Kevin Clark, upstairs from AD to No. 2 in command (COO). Then he hired a former Indiana football player, Dr. Pat Kraft, as AD. Yet another former Indiana guy was brought in to raise money for athletics.

If that means a stadium that looks like Indiana’s is about to go up at Broad and Norris, we should know soon.

Or not.

The next meeting after this one does not come until Oct. 13th. By then, any reasonable person could see that there will not be enough time to get shovels into the ground and a stadium completed by the opening day of the 2018 season. Even if it is discussed on Tuesday and approved (highly doubtful), there will be a mad dash to get the stadium done. So if a stadium at Temple is just an unfounded rumor, fans should know by Wednesday. No discussion probably means no stadium, at least not for a decade down the road.

The question of where Temple will play in 2018 is an urgent one.  The logical answer is to extend the Lincoln Financial Field lease. That could be costly because the Eagles are asking for a 300 percent increase in Temple’s $1 million-per-year rent, but it is a price Temple must pay to remain a viable program and about 10 times less costly than building its own stadium.

The AAC, like the Big East before it, will demand that Temple have exclusive rights on Saturdays to a stadium and the only other stadium with a size that fits its needs would be 57,000-seat Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania. Penn has those rights so Franklin Field is not an option nor is the 18,000-seat PPL Park.

Temple’s only means toward keeping those rights is to stay where it is right now and build its own stadium and, if the Board is silent again like it has been in the past that means a stadium is a long, long ways away if ever.

Then the next most-important date becomes Sept. 5 and that will not have anything to do with a new stadium.

Temple Stadium upgrades

A very minor adjustment adds just 2,000 or so seats to Temple Stadium.

The big news this week for Temple football was that Temple Stadium was getting an upgrade.
OK, technically they call it Lincoln Financial Field but, if I had an extra $200 million or so laying around, instead of investing it in an on-campus stadium, I’d purchase the naming rights from the Lincoln Financial Group (they only paid $139.6 million for it for 20 years) and rename the place Temple Stadium.

If, by some miracle, Temple could attract just 1/3d
of its 130K living alumni and on-campus students to
home football games,
the AAC might put the Temple ‘][‘ in its logo.

Photo by John Van Wert

Not Temple Football Forever Stadium, not the Owls Nest, not even The Apollo of Temple, just Temple Stadium.
Could you imagine Brent Musburger or Al Michaels doing a Monday Night Football game there with this opening:
“YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE AT TEMPLE STADIUM, WHERE THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES ARE HOSTING THE NEW YORK GIANTS.”
The school could spend $100 million in advertising and not get quite the bang for the buck as a few of those openings would deliver.
I’ve soured on the idea of an on-campus stadium after attending the Temple basketball game against UNC Charlotte.
I turned to three friends from my high school days and asked: “Where is everybody? This place is empty.”
The university has a nationally known basketball program but not a nationally known following.
Those who demand an on-campus stadium say that attendance would go up if the uni built one, say, at 15th and Norris between 16th on the West and Montgomery Avenue on the South.
I did not get that feeling in a half-empty state-of-art Liacouras Center back in February nor do I feel the fans who attended the home games against Canisius, St. Bonaventure or Duquesne got that feeling as well.
To me, the best upgrade for “Temple Stadium” would be fans putting down their remotes and getting off their couches and going to home games. TV ratings for Temple home games in the nation’s fourth-largest market are off the charts high, so you know there are enough Temple fans interested in watching. The challenge is getting them into cars and onto the subway.
It’s not like the place is in the middle of nowhere, ala UConn.
It’s a 10-minute subway ride for 12,500 students living on campus and a one-hour ride for 130,000 living alumni.
Winning will bring the fans, for sure.
Got to hope that winning, combined with an exciting brand of football the Owls will be playing for the next few years, will bring enough “Temple people” so that the nation is impressed.
The fans will get a chance to vote with their two feet.
THEN maybe we can talk about an on-campus stadium.
Not before.

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