Mayor-elect Jim Kenney rightly stepped in to suggest an alternative to Temple University's plan to build a $100 million stadium on its North Philadelphia campus. Kenney wants the Eagles to give the university a better deal to play at Lincoln Financial Field.
Temple's lease to use the Linc expires in 2017. The Eagles reportedly wanted to charge the public university a $12 million up-front payment for a new lease and double its annual rent to about $2 million. That's too much for a university that's trying to keep its tuition and fees down.
"If the Eagles were living up to their commitment to Philadelphia and our public university, just as the Steelers live up to their commitment to Pittsburgh by renting their stadium for free to Pitt's football team, there wouldn't be a need for a stadium at Temple University," Kenney said in an email to the Business Journal.
He makes a good point. Philadelphians were very generous to the Eagles in putting up $175 million to help build the Linc. That's a considerable investment for one of the nation's poorest big cities. The Eagles invested $350 million into the project, but the NFL team retains most stadium revenue. It can afford to give Temple a better deal to use the stadium.
Further complicating Temple's plans to build a stadium are the objections of some of its North Philly neighbors who don't want to experience the infusion of rowdy fans and traffic that descend on South Philly on Eagles game days. Temple's presence has greatly benefited the neighborhood, providing increased security, jobs, a supermarket, a movie theater, and other amenities. But past town-and-gown issues have stressed the relationship at times.
It's also difficult to accept Temple's decision to spend $100 million on a football stadium when just two years ago the school dropped several sports, including baseball, because it said it could no longer afford them. It's true that big-time football has been a moneymaker for some universities, but they are the ones with stadiums that hold 100,000 people. The one planned for Temple would hold 35,000.
In deference to Kenney, Temple has postponed a feasibility study on building a stadium. That makes sense. Kenney was expected to discuss the issue with Temple's board. Eagles President Don Smolenski said he would be available to talk to Kenney too, but he contended that the Eagles have already "gone above and beyond to support Temple football at Lincoln Financial Field."
Both Temple and the Eagles are important institutions in Philadelphia and both have received a great deal of help from taxpayers. That should obligate them to find a solution that considers the public good, which should begin with the Eagles taking a closer look at what the team charges to use the Linc and seeing if it can give Temple a better price.