Like many other longtime residents of North Philadelphia, I oppose Temple University’s planned 35,000-seat football stadium at Broad and Norris Streets. I join with the Stadium Stompers and Temple University student and faculty groups who also oppose it. I think it is a bad idea for the neighborhood and the university.
It is true that the neighborhood has benefited from Temple; the university is a major employer in North Philadelphia, an economic engine in the area and can be credited with helping to drive much of the new development in the area.
But it is also true that the university’s expansion and the private developers who have built housing for its students have displaced many North Philadelphia residents. This is the lens through which many residents of North Philadelphia see the plans for the stadium.
Many community members feel disrespected, frustrated, and powerless. They have good reasons.
Placing a stadium of that size in the middle of such a densely populated area would create problems with traffic, crime, overcrowding, and possible displacement of current residents. Add tailgate parties and alcohol to that mix and you have a recipe for severe disruption of the neighborhood.
In Yorktown, and other parts of North Philadelphia, private developers outbid single families and buy up homes and rent them out to students. This cuts down on the numbers of homes available for families.
Many years ago, Temple Towers, a student housing complex at 12th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, was known as Yorktown East and West, and many North Philly community members resided there. The building of Temple Towers displaced those residents. More recently, William Penn High School, at one time a modern communications magnet school, was replaced by Temple’s field hockey stadium at Broad and Master Streets. And while it wasn’t Temple’s fault that the school closed — the School District made the decision to close the school — many in the neighborhood still chalk it up to just another way that Temple is eating up neighborhood institutions.
Temple says it wants to build a football stadium because the fees at Lincoln Financial Field are too high. But if granted permission by the city to build, what would stop the university from coming back to the city and community to declare it cannot make money on such a small stadium and seek to expand again? It’s impossible for neighbors to have trust in Temple because they have been ignored in the past.
Until recently, Temple had not convened a single community meeting to talk to North Philly residents about how the stadium would impact their lives. This decision was short-sighted and arrogant.
That’s why it shouldn’t have been a surprise when frustrated and angry residents brought their passion to a meeting on March 6. Residents feel their opinions have been overlooked and ignored. They feel they have not had a say about what happens to their homes and neighborhood.
Temple University is a big part of North Philadelphia, but North Philadelphia is also a big part of Temple. We are students there, alumni, and employees. Many in the community have rooted for Temple basketball and football programs for years. And we are even happy that Temple’s football program has become a winning one in recent years.
But none of this gives Temple the right to build a stadium that would create such disruption to this community without truly listening to and considering the input of the people who will be impacted by the stadium. The university should be a good neighbor, not a bully. We must coexist peacefully.
If Temple insists on ramming this stadium down the throats of the North Philadelphia community, it will set back university-neighborhood relations for years to come.
Steve Williams is a freelance journalist and longtime North Philadelphia resident.