Temple University is three-quarters of the way to securing the funding needed to build a $100 million football stadium on campus, president Neil D. Theobald said Friday.
And there's no question: He thinks the school should do it.
The university, Theobald said, expects to receive $20 million in capital funding from the state that was dedicated by former Gov. Tom Corbett. Theobald said Gov. Wolf promised to honor that commitment, although a spokesman for Wolf's office on Friday said, "We have made no decisions about higher education capital projects."
Temple, Theobald said, also has secured donations or commitments that - in addition to the grant - collectively get the university from 75 percent to 80 percent of what it needs to fund a stadium.
Patrick O'Connor, chairman of the board of trustees, said this week that donations included "some seven-figure commitments."
The plan, Theobald said, would also involve some borrowing. The university would divert the money it pays the Eagles annually to lease Lincoln Financial Field toward paying off a bond issue. The agreement with the Eagles runs through 2017. The new stadium, he said, ideally would open in 2018.
"I'm optimistic," Theobald said from Greenville, N.C., where he watched the Owls beat East Carolina University on Thursday night, giving the team a 7-0 record, the best start in Temple history. "We've raised a lot of money, but stadiums are expensive and we're talking to a lot of people about it every day."
The 35,000-seat stadium is targeted for the northwest corner of campus, a block or two behind the Liacouras Center. It's the site of Geasey Field, home of the field hockey and women's lacrosse teams.
Theobald said a stadium would bring more people onto campus, engage alumni, and involve more of the university's 39,000 students, who would be able to walk to a game. The plan, he said, also includes coffee shops, bookstores, convenience stores, and other retail to build up the area.
"It becomes a hub of the campus around which we build the residential Temple experience," Theobald said. "It would be a place students would hang out."
He added: "This will be a huge economic boost to North Philadelphia."
Theobald acknowledged that parking and traffic need to be worked out, but having subway and train stops on campus will help.
The board is expected to take up the plan in December.
Several members of the 36-member board said Friday that they supported the idea - and are thrilled with the success of the team - but need to hear more about the financing.
"The feelings are positive, but not definitive," said board member Daniel Polett. "There's more discussion to take place."
Jane Scaccetti, CEO of the Drucker & Scaccetti accounting firm, also said she needed to see more analysis, but acknowledged: "You can see momentum building."
If the team were losing, she said, it might have been tougher to make a case."This clearly is the political time to put a message out there for a stadium," said Andrew Glose, 28, a computer science major.
Other board members also acknowledged that the team's historic record helps the case for a stadium, but said the discussion would be taking place anyway.
"I believe that the university needs a football stadium whether the team was 0 and 7 or 7 and 0," said Drew Katz, who runs Cherry Hill-based Interstate Outdoor Advertising. "Having a stadium on campus is good for the students. It is good for the community. It's good for the alumni to have a place to go, to have a stadium that's full."
Leonard Barrack, a Philadelphia lawyer, pointed out that most other teams in the American Athletic Conference have stadiums on campus. It's difficult to bus a lot of students to Lincoln Financial Field and back, he added.
Not everyone is 100 percent behind the plan. Arthur Hochner, president of the faculty union, said it's fine for the university to pursue a stadium, but it ought to treat its adjunct professors better. The university is opposing the adjuncts' attempt to unionize.
"The most important thing at Temple is the education that happens in classrooms," he said. "Football is not education. The priority should be on the teachers."
Ryan K. Rinaldi, student government president, said people he talks to on campus are excited about the prospect of a stadium.
"This could really bring the university to a world-class level," he said.