The old Tulane Stadium was the home to Super Bowls, Sugar Bowls and some fabulous LSU-Tulane games, including the 1973 14-0 Green Wave victory, that ended 25 years of losing to the Tigers and attracted 86,598 fans, the largest crowd ever to attend a football game in New Orleans.
Five years before the stadium was officially razed, the Tulane football team moved to the Louisiana Superdome. It was a bad fit for the team and their fans and, sadly, Tulane football was never the same.
Now, after 37 years of losing, the university has made a courageous decision to bring football back to campus and construct a new 30,000 seat stadium. This stadium will save the program, bring new prestige and attention to Tulane athletics and is vitally important for the success of new football coach Curtis Johnson.
Unfortunately, a small group of neighborhood activists have succeeded in stopping the stadium construction. Yesterday, the New Orleans City Council placed the interests of a vocal minority over Tulane University, which employs 4,400 people and is the number one employer in the region
By a vote of 4-2, the council approved a motion for an “Interim Zoning District” hearing. This means that the building permits will not be issued for the stadium and construction cannot begin next January as planned. It will also negatively impact construction plans at other area universities like Xavier, Delgado and Loyola. This hearing may not take place for weeks and may lead to a slew of legal challenges to the university’s stadium plans.
Despite a strong presence from Tulane supporters at the meeting, council members sided with the neighborhood activists who believe the stadium will negatively impact their quality of life. Neighbors are worried about parking, congestion and other problems that a new stadium will bring.
It is ironic that many of these same opponents lived in the area when old Tulane Stadium was on campus, with a capacity three times larger than the new stadium.
There was a good relationship between the neighbors and the university in the days of the old Tulane Stadium. As a former resident of that area, I truly enjoyed the games at old Tulane Stadium. It was a major advantage to live near a stadium where so many exciting games were being played.
The problem is that Tulane has not had many exciting games in the last 37 years and the crowds at the Superdome have been ridiculously low. A new stadium will revive interest in a program that has been declining for decades. An on campus stadium will encourage more students and Uptown residents to attend. These two groups form the real base of support for the athletic program.
If approved, this project will be an economic development bonanza for this entire region. It will create both construction and permanent jobs and inject millions of dollars into the local economy.
Without the new Tulane Stadium, the football program, which has an incredible history, might as well be disbanded and that would be a terrible blow to both the city of New Orleans and Tulane University.
Congratulations to City Council members Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and Jon Johnson who voted to support the stadium and Mayor Landrieu, who vowed to veto this “Interim Zoning District” measure if it eventually reaches his desk.
It is time New Orleans stopped being held hostage by a small group of activists and embraced projects such as Tulane Stadium that will be very positive for the entire region.
Jeff Crouere is a native of New Orleans, LA and he is the host of a Louisiana based program, “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m.weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. For more information, visit his web site at www.ringsidepolitics.com. E-mail him at [email protected]">[email protected]