Tulane Stadium Taking Shape
9 September 2013
Nola.com has the story as steel is rising up at the new Tulane University Yulman Football Stadium.
Tulane's on-campus football stadium has walls and a steel silhouette
6 September 2013
Since January, there has been a cacophony of construction noise coming from the site of Tulane‘s old Westfeldt Practice facility.
Banging, thumping, clattering, and mechanized and motorized noises have sounded all spring and summer from the construction site of Tulane’s new on-campus football stadium project.
A chain link fence with windscreen lining it snaked around that venue as well as the old tennis compound up to the new Hertz Center. No one could see inside without climbing over and getting a special tour, but it sure sounded like something was happening.
Now, two majestic steel walls tower over the fences and the Wilson Center, setting the sides of the stadium. Standing in the infield of baseball‘s Turchin Stadium, the walls of the athletic department‘s crowning jewel are visual signs of the on-campus football stadium‘s progress.
“It‘s been amazing,” university executive vice president Yvette Jones said. “I‘ve had so many people say, ‘Oh my God, it‘s real.’ Because, as you know, this is our field of dreams and it has created so much excitement.“
The path to construction has been fraught with fundraising challenges, opposition from some close neighbors as well as snares from the city council, and scrutiny from the university itself on the financial viability of the project — not to mention adverse fate in the form of Hurricane Katrina and the downturn in the economy that cramped the Tulane’s efforts to raise money.
But the university has circled the fundraising wagons on the $72 million production and it’s clear the project many fans had given up hope of ever seeing appears to be imminent.
“We‘re still in the active fundraising for it but we’re getting very close to be finished. The project is about $72 million all in,“ Jones said. “That‘s everything, not just construction. Everything is right on track and we’ve started the priority ticket sales already so we‘ll start getting into a more public phase of selling season ticket packages as we get into the fall.”
Tulane offensive tackle Todd Jacquet is a tower himself at 6-foot-5, 277-pounds. He eyed the structure on Thursday after practice. Even Jacquet had to crane his neck back to take in the west side beams.
“It went up pretty fast. I was very excited about how quickly once they got the go-ahead that things started rolling,“ Jacquet said. “Every time I look over, it looks like something new has been put up.”
The players have had a first-hand view of the site turning from a pile of cleared mud to something that looks more like a building. They have walked past the construction site nearly every day all summer and have stolen bird‘s-eye views of the construction site from the football coaches’ office windows, which overlook the construction site.
“I look everyday when I pass by,” Tulane wide receiver Xavier Rush said. “I ride my bike to the Wilson Center. I can see everything is going up. I remember the first time something went up vertical after that, it‘s just been going from there. It‘s more stuff and more stuff. We’re excited to see it go up, knowing we‘re going to play in it very soon.”
Tulane football coach Curtis Johnson often parallels the signs of the project’s progress with the reconstruct job he is implementing on the program itself.
“We‘ll have recruits in, and (others schools might) say, ‘We‘re getting a new stadium.‘ The first thing I do is I walk them on the balcony and say, ‘Hey look, this is what we‘re doing,’“ Johnson said. “It‘s coming up and it‘s coming up quick. They’re working like us. They‘re here and we’re here. I hear the beating all the time, but it‘s exciting. It‘s very exciting for us.”
The team is 1-0 and facing an 0-1 South Alabama team this Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, a venue the team won‘t have to use for home games next fall.
But for as much excitement as the rise of steel beams has brought — Rush said he recognizes that the buzz of the new stadium can only do so much for fan support and ticket sales.
The key to long-term support is developing a winning tradition — a hefty goal for a program that hasn‘t had a winning season in more than a decade.
“After this first win (last week), we’ve heard a lot of congratulations, a lot of ‘Good game.’ We had a good turnout the first game and we plan on having a good turnout this Saturday and getting another win. That’s our main focus,“ Rush said.
As the physical signs of the stadium literally grow in terms of an outline, the construction project will reach another phase by the end of this month and the beginning of next month.
Now Yulman Stadium has a silhouette — an outline if you will in the form of a steel stand support beam. Now construction will begin shading in the form.
“What you will see by sometime at the end of September or October is some of the stands going up,” Yvette Jones said. “The structure is up there right now, the support. Then we’ll start building out the enclosed areas, too. But by the time we get into mid- October, you‘ll really begin to see it take shape.”
The fundraising is taking shape also.
“We‘re about $20 million away and we actually have a couple of asks that are out that should they close, they should be pretty significant size and get us very close to reaching the $72 million,” Jones said.
But it takes just one glance at the sky outside the Wilson Center to see the project is rolling.
“You see steel coming up out of the ground. We are on schedule for the fall (of 2014),“ Jones said. “Right now we are looking at a completion date hopefully in September and if we don’t have a hurricane, we are going to be good. It’s really coming together nicely right now.”