With the revival of discussions about an on-campus football stadium at Temple University, a group of students, faculty, and community activists known as the “Stadium Stompers” plan to stage a protest Tuesday at the board of trustees meeting.
President Richard Englert announced late last month that the school would move forward with the planning process for the 35,000-seat, $135 million stadium, which had been tabled indefinitely since the summer of 2016 after his predecessor, Neil Theobald, was dismissed and the administration went into turmoil.
The Stompers, who had protested frequently during the 2015-16 school year, say that this time around they are taking a more theatrical approach, caricaturing board members by wearing suits and large paper masks in an effort to draw attention to what the protesters say are board members’ conflicts of interest.
Block captain and lifelong North Philadelphia resident Gail Loney, 56, said the new protests are aimed beyond complaints that community members have been excluded from the discussions.
“We sat outside and chanted, we tried to get in different meetings, we have done a traffic study and stopped traffic right there at Cecil B. Moore Avenue,” Loney said. “So now we’re going to focus in on the people focusing in on us: the board of trustees.”
“We’re going to focus in on them because we really feel that they’re the engine behind this whole proposal to build a stadium,” Loney said. “Because Temple wants to make their brand bigger than life in taking over North Philadelphia.”
Even when stadium discussions were dormant, the group continued its twice-monthly organizing meetings at the Church of the Advocate at 18th and Diamond Streets.
Group leaders met with Englert this summer, and he heard the Stadium Stompers’ concerns, according to an emailed statement from university spokesman Brandon Lausch.
“No final decision has been made on this issue,” Lausch said. “That decision will be made based on what is best for the university and the North Philadelphia community.”
“They’re not looking to the future — not for the future of the neighborhood. They’re looking for the future of Temple University,” Loney said. “In their future, they just want Temple University to take over the whole neighborhood. Since we’re the focus for them, they’re the focus for us.”