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New mayor's a player in Temple stadium plans

Jim Kenney's Twitter feed confirms that Philadelphia's incoming mayor is a sports fan. A recent tweet: "He may have been difficult to manage, but I liked DeSean. Wish he was still an Eagle."

Jim Kenney's Twitter feed confirms that Philadelphia's incoming mayor is a sports fan. A recent tweet:

A reasonable position on DeSean Jackson, even a populist one, as is Kenney's declaration last week that he wants to delve deeper into Temple's campus stadium hopes, and whether a deal with the Eagles still could be viable.

Does Temple president Neil Theobald care what you, or I, or those protesters kept out of his board meeting last week think of his plan to build a football stadium on campus? Theobald sure has to care what the next mayor thinks if he's going to close a city street and impact a neighborhood.

"Part of what has driven Temple to want to build a stadium is the amount of money it costs them to use the Linc, which is a heavily publicly subsidized facility which increased the value of the Eagles considerably," Kenney said last week.

There is no part of that sentence that is wrong, even if I wouldn't link all those facts together so quickly. I don't think Kenney is telling Temple to forget it. He's just asking smart questions and from this man all sides will need to answer them.

Why does Temple's president want a stadium? (Make no mistake, he wants it.) We found out this year what the Owls' upside fan base is and unless you're bringing in a marquee opponent, a Penn State or Notre Dame, that fan base, just to see Temple in a good year, right now is about 20,000 people, plus students.

Just from that narrow angle, a 35,000-seat campus stadium would perfectly hold such crowds for American Athletic Association games and the vast majority of nonconference games. The atmosphere would be better. When the crowds are smaller, a smaller stadium still works better.

Separate important question: Is such a stadium big enough, or capable of growing, if lighting strikes and Temple gets an invite from a Power 5 conference? Temple hasn't been asleep on this never-ending issue. I'll assume the Owls have checked with a league like the ACC to make sure this wouldn't be taking them off track.

A whole different matter is the money. Is the $100 million figure the school has tossed out realistic? If the dollar figures go beyond what is initially raised, how much of the overrun will be paid by students? Will there be seat licenses?

Obviously, Temple leaders and trustees have talked through all this, extensively. They just aren't doing it publicly. I went to last week's board athletics subcommittee meeting and most of the meeting was private. In the public portion of the session the word "stadium" was not mentioned.

(No surprise there. A bigger surprise is that the trustees didn't have to approve the pay raise for football coach Matt Rhule. It's interesting that Theobald can pay his football coach whatever he wants without board approval.)

It also was interesting that in the public session of the full board meeting, Theobald began by pointing out the many millions in free and discounted health care that Temple provides the North Philadelphia community. It's a legitimate point when some neighborhood leaders are trying to paint Temple as the face of evil in their streets.

I don't think Kenney is carrying anyone's water here. You might even argue he's doing his job. (It's also possible that he simply wants the courtesy of a conversation since Temple apparently hadn't had one with him since he was elected.)

"I'm a Temple lover," Kenney said last week, according to an Inquirer article. "However, I also have a responsibility to make sure the community is respected, to make sure when we have a publicly invested facility, it's available to a university at a cost that's not prohibitive."

One of the many questions I had about Temple building its own place is whether the Eagles would even offer a reasonable deal for one-off games such as a Penn State, games that would be too big for a campus place. The answer, I'm told, is yes, they'd make it happen. That's not Temple saying it. It apparently is the Eagles' position.

Have we heard anything about parking plans? Yes, a feasibility study would hit on that. But shouldn't a feasibility study be done before preliminary design work, which would have its own costs?

The bottom line: It sure seemed as if all systems were go for Temple to move on the whole thing until the next mayor reminded everyone that he has a seat at this table now, right up front.

Maybe Theobald simply tells Kenney that it doesn't matter what the deal is with the Eagles, that he wants the stadium right behind the Liacouras Center. Don't know what the next mayor would say to that.