New Orleans — Football will make a return to Tulane University’s campus after more than three decades at the Superdome.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Friday signed off on an agreement that will allow the university to build a 30,000-capacity on-campus stadium, ending months of controversy about the project and allowing work to begin. The city on Friday evening quietly released an open letter to neighbors and a copy of the agreement that officials say resolves many issues about which neighbors were concerned.
Still, some who live near the site of the future stadium, which will be built just off South Claiborne Avenue and will abut some homes on Audubon Boulevard, are not pleased with all aspects of the agreement.
In a letter sent earlier Friday to the Mayor’s Task Force on Tulane Stadium, members of the Upper Audubon, Central Carrollton, State Street Drive, Audubon Boulevard Parkway, Audubon Boulevard, Versailles Boulevard and Carrollton Area neighborhood associations expressed concern about several aspects of the stadium’s operation, including:
- The definition of a “major event” and the use of the stadium during those times.
- Traffic and parking that could overwhelm surrounding neighborhoods.
- Stadium operating hours that could affect the quality of life in surrounding areas.
- Lighting that could disturb neighbors living near the stadium and the hours certain lights can be lit.
- Acoustic issues that could disturb neighbors during late-night events.
- Litter abatement and keeping the neighborhood clean.
- Relationships with neighbors and future policy reviews that appear to limit neighborhood input.
- Enforcement regulations and penalties for violating terms of the agreement.
The city, however, noted in its letter to neighbors that many of those aspects have been addressed in the agreement.
Among the changes to which Tulane has agreed are:
- Reducing from 48 feet to 36 feet the height of the stadium wall on the Audubon Boulevard side and landscaping and constructing a wall along the property line in an effort to ensure neighbors’ privacy.
- Redesigning the sound system to direct noise into the stadium and using seats with a concrete base to avoid noise from aluminum seats.
- Reconfiguring lighting to have three settings for different operations and to reduce spillover into surrounding neighborhoods.
- Prohibiting some events, such as concerts, more than one high-school football game a week or more than two intercollegiate bowl games in a year.
- Limiting the stadium’s operating hours on weekdays and weekends to 10:30 p.m. for some events, while some weekend events can end at midnight.
- Enacting fines of up to $5,000 for repeat failures to enact proper parking plans and up to $1,000 for failure to enact proper litter abatement and light plans.
- Finding off-campus parking facilities and providing shuttle services.
- And hosting an annual meeting with neighborhood association presidents and employing a community liaison, in addition to maintaining a stadium website with updated information and hosting two community meetings each year.
Debate about the stadium began almost as soon as plans were announced.
District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry sought to impose an “interim zoning district” that could stop Tulane from building the stadium. The council voted in July to kill that measure.
Guidry had said that her goal was not to prevent the stadium project, only to ensure it is built in a way that tries to satisfy all parties involved in the discussions. Guidry’s district includes Tulane’s campus.
Guidry on Saturday said she figures adjustments to the agreement will be necessary after the stadium begins operation and that she expects any changes to be made with neighbors’ best interests in mind.
“While there are contingencies that are not covered under the agreement, I trust that Tulane will continue to work with the neighbors to protect their quality of life while operating a successful athletic stadium,” Guidry said in a prepared statement.
The new home of Tulane football will be called Yulman Stadium. The facility is expected to cost $65 million. Tulane spokesman Mike Strecker said on Saturday that university officials hope to break ground this month and have the stadium completed by July 2014.
In an e-mail sent to students that Strecker provided to The Advocate, the university said it will soon announce a date for a community meeting to discuss the stadium’s construction.
The old Tulane Stadium opened in 1926, not too far from where Yulman Stadium will be built, and seated 35,000 people. A series of expansions allowed nearly 81,000 fans to attend games.
Tulane demolished the stadium in 1980 after the football program moved its games to the Superdome.