John Lange knows this is personal.
The introduction of Yulman Stadium, capable of drawing 30,000 people to the area, is a considerable jostle to the ecosystem of its surrounding neighborhood. It’s why Lange, Tulane’s game day manager, and several other Tulane officials held their second meeting with nearby residents regarding the operations scheduled to occur near Tulane’s campus on Saturdays this fall.
Lange joined Tulane Police Department Superintendent John Barnwell and Associate Director of Facilities Chris Maitre at the Wilson Center on Thursday evening to lay out the school’s process and field any questions about the impact of Tulane football returning Uptown for the first time since 1974.
“This is an incredibly personal issue,” Lange said. “We aren’t just talking about houses, its peoples’ homes. This is the second meeting we have held in this go-around, and we are hearing the same concerns we have heard about for the last three years. I know it’s hard for them to wrap their arms around it, but I feel very comfortable in our plan.
“We have reached out to all of the city agencies since January to make sure they know our plan. This isn’t something we started working on yesterday. We are ready to activate the plan and then make the adjustments necessary at the end of game one.”
A small but curious group of a dozen residents peppered Lange, Barnwell and Maitre with questions about street closures, parking, litter, busses, volume, concerts, tailgating and almost everything in between.
Some wanted to see cars illegally parked in two-hour zones get towed rather than ticketed. Others were simply concerned about whether pedestrians would be able to safely cross the heavily trafficked, six-lane Claiborne Ave.
Tulane met the barrage of questions with three power point presentations to point out the security, traffic and sanitation plans and deftly moved between the topics, trying to quell concerns for the 90-minute duration of the meeting. Many of Tulane’s answers came back to its game day hotline at 844-25EVENT, which will be used as a dispatch service for any unforeseen problems that arise throughout the day.
Meanwhile, Tulane is sending out a several three-person crews to pick up trash and place garbage cans on surrounding city streets where fans are walking toward the stadium. The NOPD is assigning 41 officers to conduct traffic before the game, and 53 at the game’s conclusion to ensure proper ingress and egress.
“There’s a price tag that comes with all of this, but what I’m trying to say is we are not letting budget affect our plan at all,” Lange said. “When we sat down with the city and the neighbors and made this agreement, we said we would do all of these things, and now we are. It’s us living up to our end of the bargain.”
While some residents were still ruffled by the disruption a neighborhood stadium can cause, no one shouted or broke into an argument. The conversations remained civil, and the questions were pointed directly and addressed individually.
“A lot of us have been here and were a part of the meetings when all of this was formed,” said Tim Garrett, a leader of the adjoining Marlyville neighborhood. “I think the university has done fine, but there are some issues we have with the city that still need to be resolved. I think the school has been accessible and I think their actions are appropriate.
“The neighborhood had more than ample opportunity to ask questions. It’s sort of a testimony to the amount of information that’s already been handed down that so few people were really here tonight. If they don’t show up, I guess it means they don’t have many questions.”
In the end, Tulane is going to kick off in front of a sold out stadium on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 3 p.m. against Georgia Tech regardless of what measures work or fall short. From there, Tulane has said it will adjust accordingly but eventually Lange said he hopes these measures allow Tulane football to become a way of life in Uptown New Orleans again, the way it was for previous generations.
“I think people are going to grow into it,” Lange said. “Once they see the plan in action and that what we are saying is truly the plan we are enacting, it will settle people’s concerns. We are going above and beyond. We really are.”