Temple University has been developing plans for two years to build a football stadium for the Owls on their campus in North Philly.
But as the university prepares to submit a formal proposal to the City Planning Commission this year, City Council President Darrell Clarke, who also represents the 5th Councilmanic District in which Temple sits, has recently signaled that he will not support the project as currently proposed.
“This was always about the university’s relationship with students and near residents and businesses, and given historic tensions there, the Council President had expected university officials to seek community approval with sensitivity and care,” Clarke's spokeswoman Jane Roh Roh told the Temple News.
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She told the paper that Clarke will not support "any City approvals for the stadium," and added that Clarke feels Temple "missed a great opportunity to repair its relationship with residents." While he would support the project if the community and university reached an agreement, she said it“really seems unlikely that they will, at this point.”
Roh declined to comment further beyond her comments to the Temple News.
Clarke previously said in 2015 he wouldn't support the stadium without a university-community consensus on the project. Given Philadelphia's system of Councilmanic prerogative, councilmembers like Clarke wield significant influence over what developments are approved in their districts, and Clarke's opposition could potentially spell the doom of the project.
Temple did not directly respond to Roh's comments about Clarke's stance.
"Our goal continues to be to engage our neighbors on this and other substantial issues that are important to the residents of North Philadelphia," a Temple spokesman said.
In the wake of a recent university town hall – which residents and members of the Stadium Stompers repeatedly interrupted until it was canceled – and a Stadium Stompers sponsored meeting on the project, neither of which Clarke attended, his position seemed somewhat vague. Some project opponents even circulated invites to a fundraiser for Clarke political campaign, hosted by local developers, after he didn't attend the Stompers' meeting.
But Temple considers the proposal, now dubbed a "multi-purpose facility" that includes a football stadium, as an "opportunity to work with community members to improve our relationships with North Philadelphia," Temple president Richard Englert wrote in a letter about the project.
“We need to listen more and become better neighbors by responding to their concerns on this and other matters," Englert wrote. "This facility would need to be good for our neighbors as well as for the university.”
Temple says the project will include not just a 35,000-seat stadium for the Owls, but also new classrooms and 28,000 square feet of retail space, and possibly provide economic benefits through retail and construction jobs to the community, in addition to a planned "Special Services District" to benefit to the neighborhood. While Temple owns most of the property required for the proposal, they also are hoping for a section of 15th Street between Norris Street and Montgomery Avenue.
The Owls have played at Lincoln Financial Field, owned by the Eagles for years, but with the Eagles proposing a reported multi-million-dollar rent hike, Temple says it would ultimately save money by building its own stadium.