Temple has yet to start construction on a promised community jobs center, a project that was announced three years ago, but its plans for a controversial on-campus football stadium have only gained steam. This is thanks in part to some grade-A scuzzery courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The university announced this week that it would break ground soon on a site meant to house a center that would provided job-related resources and training for local North Philly residents, per a report from BillyPenn. The announcement comes right in the middle of a rough stretch for the Temple administration, which has been roundly criticized for its determination to build a multi-million dollar football stadium on campus rather than re-upping its insanely expensive lease with the Eagles.
About that last bit: The Eagles’ stadium is about two miles away from Temple’s campus, a trip that takes about 13 minutes by car and 25 minutes by bus. It’s an ideal setup for a public university located in a major city, or would be if the Eagles were not fleecing Temple during every year that the Owls have played in their stadium. They have been fleecing Temple, though, charging a fee of over $1 million per season, plus stadium operating costs, which come out to over $265,000 per game. This is after the Eagles got Philadelphia taxpayers to help build the stadium back in 2000; the city and state government agreed to pay $188 million of the Eagles stadium’s $512 million price tag, or about 36 percent.
Temple’s lease ran out in 2017, although the school’s administration already decided to exercise the options for both 2018 and 2019. But Temple has very publicly committed to the fact that 2019 will be its final year partnering with the Eagles, in large part because the Eagles were asking the university to lock into a 30-year lease that would have run the school $2 million per year, with a required upfront payment of $12 million. Back in 2015, that proposal drew the ire of Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney:
“The Eagles have a point of view and I don’t agree with their point of view. It’s all about dollars and cents, and I don’t know if we’re going to resolve that or not,” said Kenney.
In February, Temple officials were supposed to unveil the stadium plans at a town hall event, but backed down after the community vocalized its frustrations with the school’s prioritization of the athletic department and specifically with the decision to plow forward with a new on-campus football stadium. So the school bagged the fancy announcement and unveiled the football stadium layout to the media instead.
The result has been a series of compounding and deeply cynical decisions. Temple’s decision to go all-in on its football program put them in this position; the Eagles did not help by restricting Temple’s options to building a new stadium, paying more than they could afford for home games, or cutting football altogether.
Which brings us back to the job center. Not many people in Philly wanted their tax dollars going to another stadium—one that will cost upwards of $100 million dollars—when there’s a perfectly good one 15 minutes down the road. In an attempt to balance out all the cash, noise, and road closures that will come with that two-year construction project, Temple offered the jobs center.
In 2015, Temple partnered with a local union, the Laborers’ District Council, to purchase the land that once housed William Penn High School for $15 million. While the school has been able to build the Temple Sports Complex, a collection of grass and turf fields and a track, Temple administrators are now saying that construction on the job training center never started because they were still trying to negotiate a final price for the center with the LDC. Now, Temple is claiming that construction will be completed by May 2020.
Spending for Temple football slowing down other on-campus projects isn’t exactly a new trend. In 2013, for instance, the Owls dropped seven sports from their athletic departments lineup to shave $3 million off the annual budget of $44 million. Temple was pressed to do that because it had tried to go the independent route with its football team and ended up spending a small fortune for a historically shitty program to play in the Eagles stadium.
In conclusion: a college is selling out its principles for football, a NFL team is cravenly trying to squeeze as much money as it can out of another party, the sky is blue, and grass is green.