With Tulane University’s first on-campus home game just six days away, Uptown residents will soon get an answer to the central question about the once-controversial stadium: What will game day look like in the neighborhoods around the stadium?
Will it be a return to the front-yard cocktail parties of the old Sugar Bowl days? A crasser, modern version, more akin to the abuses of public property that draw complaints every Carnival season? Or will the parties largely follow the elaborate on-campus plans envisioned by university officials?
Tulane will host six games this season in the 30,000-seat Yulman Stadium. How many of those seats will be filled for each game was an open question last year. Turnstile records for Tulane games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome from 2008 to 2012, obtained by The Hullabaloo student newspaper, showed an average of fewer than 5,500 fans in attendance per game, with some games drawing as few as 2,000. But last week, the final 2,000 tickets to Saturday’s home opener against Georgia Tech sold out in less than 14 minutes.
Over the past few weeks, Tulane has been holding meetings with neighbors to explain its security, traffic, parking and litter plans.
Standard Parking + Gameday, a company that handles major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the Final Four, will manage the parking and traffic operations for Green Wave games, said Tulane’s game-day operations manager John Lange at a mid-August meeting.
“We feel that we’ve brought the best in the business to help us with our traffic plan, with our parking plan and also with the shuttle program we’re going to be running,” Lange said.
Tulane has leased a total of nearly 10,500 parking spaces. Twelve lots holding 2,000 spaces are either on-campus or just off it. Seven more off-site locations with another 8,500 spaces have been leased as far away as Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson Parish and the Superdome downtown; shuttles will drop those fans off on South Claiborne Avenue in front of the stadium.
Those off-campus sites, which ticket holders can reserve for $10 per game, have been the most popular, Lange said.
Tulane plans to concentrate most tailgating activity in the two large grassy areas in the center of campus. The Newcomb quadrangle will be for tents set up by the university that fans can reserve ahead of time, and the adjoining Lavin-Bernick Center quad will be open to the public. Tailgaters will be able to drive onto campus and unload their grills and other supplies ahead of time, Lange said.
Traffic will be restricted on Willow Street, and Audubon Boulevard between Willow and Claiborne will be closed to vehicles starting three hours before each game. (Residents of the street will have permits to allow them in.)
Since the on-campus tailgate village will open four hours before kickoff, residents have wondered whether tailgaters could slip onto Audubon Boulevard and park prior to traffic being closed there. But officials said parking laws will be enforced there during the same time period.
Audubon Boulevard will still be open from Claiborne to Walmsley Avenue, however, which resident Billy Marchal said contradicted the original plans agreed upon by City Hall, Tulane and residents.
“Why are you not putting into place what you agreed to and told everybody you were going to do?” Marchal asked.
Tulane’s Paul Harang replied that city engineers determined that more streets needed to remain open around the stadium for traffic flow.
“We’re relying on the city traffic engineers,” Harang said.
The Department of Public Works will be strictly enforcing towing laws in the neighborhoods around the stadium, city official Cheryn Robles said. The city will have officers who can be deployed within two or three minutes of a call about a vehicle improperly parked, and a tow truck will follow immediately afterward if a violation is found.
“If I park my own car too close to my driveway, will I get ticketed?” asked one resident.
“Yes,” Robles replied. “This is parking enforcement, so use your driveway.”
Tulane also has hired an off-duty detail totaling 16 New Orleans police officers — led by 2nd District Cmdr. Paul Noel — assigned in two-man cars to eight zones covering the neighborhoods from Jefferson Avenue to South Carrollton Avenue between St. Charles Avenue and Fontainebleau Drive.
Sanitation workers will deliver trash and recycling cans to principal streets throughout the neighborhoods around campus, such as Audubon Boulevard, Broadway, Palmer Avenue, Versailles Boulevard and Maple Street. Some residents, worried that the placement of trash cans on Audubon Boulevard will actually serve to encourage people to try to tailgate there, asked for “no tailgating” signs to be affixed to them.
“We can’t put signs on the public right of way enforcing laws that don’t exist,” Harang replied.
John Saunders, former president of the Audubon Boulevard Parkway Association and an early supporter of the stadium project, encouraged his neighbors to support Tulane’s efforts.
“I am not in support of blocking the streets. I am not in support of keeping people out of here,” Saunders said. “This is a city that cannot stop throwing trash on the ground. Let them put their trash cans out there. Don’t expect Tulane to take the trash cans out, so that the week afterward, everyone can come back and say, ‘There’s trash all over the boulevard.’ ”
Residents also asked about the possibility of fans parking large recreational vehicles on Audubon Boulevard or nearby the night before the game. City law already bans RVs from parking on public streets, city officials said.
“If necessary, we’ll get those vehicles moved,” Robles said.
Officers patrolling the neighborhood will not be told to order people off neutral grounds simply because they are standing there, said Tyler Gamble, a city spokesman. On the other hand, they will be enforcing other laws regarding public safety and quality of life, he said.
“First things first, let’s use common sense when we’re out there,” Gamble said. “If it looks like it’s going to be a public safety issue, then they’re going to respond to it.”