Construction Underway on Tulane Stadium
19 April 2013
The Times-Picayune covered the ongoing construction of Tulane’s new on-campus football stadium.
Tulane's on-campus football stadium on schedule for fall 2014 opening
18 April 2013
In many ways, Tulane’s most fleeting dream in the past three decades doesn’t look like much now. It looks like a pile of mud right now.
The space that once was Westfeldt Practice Facility has been leveled and is covered with a layer of wet dirt. What was once the tennis complex is covered in mud, too, and the balcony connected to Tulane football coach Curtis Johnson’s second-floor office in the Wilson Center has been ripped off.
It’s a little unsightly, but boy is it a glorious mess for Green Wave fans who have yearned for an on-campus football stadium since the old Tulane Stadium was demolished in 1980. There is no question, construction of what will be called Yulman Stadium is under way. The most recent phase is the driving of support piles to support the 30,000-person capacity facility that is expected to be finished in the fall 2014.
With fund-raising setbacks, Hurricane Katrina, and outcry from some neighbors it’s been a long, bumpy road from conception to shovel-in-the-ground on the project.
But to someone like university executive vice president Yvette Jones, who has worked at the school for 33 years, it’s nothing sort of a minor miracle that construction is under way.
“I really believe when the stadium opens and it becomes this place that our fans, the community – that people want to come to – I do think it’s going to change the dynamic of our athletic program,” Jones said. “I just think there is something about community we have lost by not having that stadium.”
There is still a long way to go, but after getting clearance from the city earlier this year, Tulane is moving full-force ahead in building the venue, which will be positioned between baseball’s Turchin Stadium and the Reily Center. The stadium will be connected to the Wilson Center and the Hertz Center, enveloping an athletic corridor on Ben Weiner Drive.
“Man, I’m happy. It’s changing the program,” rising sophomore safety Darion Monroe said. “It shows they care about athletics and they care about football and they are putting money into it and now there is a big stadium coming up. I can’t wait. We won’t have to travel to the Superdome no more.”
Monroe is part of Johnson’s first recruiting class – a group of talented players lured to Tulane with promises of a new on-campus stadium in the near future.
But it took years of planning and knocking on donor doors to get to a position where the university felt it had enough funding to announce the project. It took at least another year or so to secure title sponsors.
Tulane spent the final six months of 2012 in tricky negotiations with a group of angry neighbors who opposed the scope of the project so close to their Uptown homes.
“There are different levels of anxiety about the stadium itself. But we want to continue to have an open dialogue with the neighbors,” Jones said. “I think we’re having that. I think we’ve at least established some communication with them. We do send out emails to the neighbors and let them know what is going on at the site – if something is going to have an impact on weekends or nights. That probably helps a lot.”
The university said it is committed to continuing to work with the neighbors on their concerns. But the booming of the pile-driving and the constant bangs and hammering heard from outside the construction fences show that the project is moving.
It will be several more months before fans will see walls, however. Right now “construction” has consisted of clearing the site for sub-ground work and now support structuring below the ground.
“We are in the midst of pile-driving and I would say that we will be finished with the foundation work by early June and then you will start to see the stands coming up and the structure of the Glazer Club – the home side beginning to come up as we get toward the end of the year,” Jones said. “ You’ll start to see that start to get closed in and pretty much the finishing touches on the stands around the stadium, the field going in and then we’ll probably enter a phase where a lot of the interior work (is done) — finishing out that club space, the multi-purpose room, concourses, all of that and then the last touches will be basically finishing up the outside site.”
Jones said by late summer there should be some recognizable walls.
“We’re moving pretty much on schedule at this stage,” she said.
The intangibles with the project are also on-going. Jones said the university has $15 million more to raise for the stadium to fund the full cost.
“The price of the stadium is right around $65 million right now,” Jones said. “So we’re a little bit over $50 (million) and we feel pretty good about it. We’re hoping to get to $55 (million) by June and then we’ll pick up the rest during the following year and have it all completely fund-raised by the time we open.”
Another byproduct of the project is mapping out a way the football team can practice to prepare for the 2013 season, Tulane’s final season of home games in the Superdome.
“I guess that this season they are talking about using both the Saints (practice) facility and when they can, the baseball field,” Jones said. “So we are keeping as much practice on campus as we can. There will be times when that doesn’t work ideally but generally I think we’re going to be able to get through that.”
The money for transporting the team and its practice equipment comes out of the athletic operating fund, Jones pointed out, and is not a part of the stadium construction budget.
Overall, Jones said the university is prepared for the upcoming year of construction – and it’s something that holds personal sentiment for her as well.
“I have to tell you, it’s hard to believe that we have been able to come back full circle and have an on-campus facility and I am pleased that we got this far because raising the money is not always easy and that has been a challenge. … I want to see it come up out of the ground,” Jones said. “It’s a mess right now but you know, I’m just dying to see it come out of the ground and then we’ll know it’s really there. But I’m excited about it.”
After the past decade of talk about an on-campus stadium without seeing the project gain significant steam until the past two years, Jones said it’s a long time coming.
“It’s historic,” she said. “It’s been kind of unattainable almost.”