There was no blueprint for John Lange to follow when he agreed to become Tulane’s gameday manager in December 2013.
The former event services manager at SMG and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was stepping into a new and complex role — one responsible for ensuring the myriad operations involved with a Tulane football game day, in and around Yulman Stadium, are properly orchestrated.
Fans, nearby residents, administrators, police, media and sanitation crews are just some of the groups Lange is aiming to satisfy when Tulane opens its grounds prior to Saturday’s 3 p.m. kickoff against Georgia Tech.
“College football and the experience around it has changed a lot in the 40 years since Tulane last held a football game at this site,” Lange said. “People expect a lot more, and the reason Tulane wanted to build this stadium is to give people the experience they were missing in the Superdome, but we also need to keep in mind the neighborhood that’s in place and maintain a proper balance for everyone involved.”
That meant Lange’s first job was to bring together the variety of entities that will be affected by Tulane football’s return to campus. To start, he created two separate committees that would cover every facet of the university.
One is an operations committee, which meets on a weekly basis and includes a series of logistical pieces stretching from facility services to Tulane police — and even includes privately contracted SP-Plus Gameday, which handled parking services. The other committee gathered various vice presidents and high-level administrators across the school who were being affected by the stadium’s events and gathered feedback from stakeholders about any potential problems cropping up.
“We needed everyone who plays a role in executing the dream to know what they were supposed to do,” Lange said. “It was their job to sell it, and now we have to make the vision come true. So I am meeting with people all of the time as the go-between from Gibson Hall to the Wilson Center and a bunch of places in between, making sure what we’ve sold and what we’ve got planned are the same.”
He rifled through the pedestrian and parking plans commissioned by the university in 2012 to make sure the proper parameters were set up and the restrictions weren’t causing unnecessary harm or inconvenience to anyone in the stadium’s proximity.
Then he carefully studied the agreement between the New Orleans City Council and Tulane, when it lifted the interim zoning district. In it, there were restrictions on everything from the type of music allowed in the stadium to the necessary traffic and cleanup crews required before and after games.
To maintain good faith between Tulane and nearby residents, the school also hosted a series of meetings featuring Lange and members from the Tulane facilities and police departments. Questions flew and complaints were raised, but ultimately voices were heard.
“This was the deal we agreed to with the neighbors, and we had to keep up our end of that agreement or this wouldn’t be done in good faith,” Lange said. “We are incorporating everything to make sure public safety and quality of life for the neighbors is our top concern. As a university, we had to march forward to execute the plan.”
Now that fans are arriving in town and alarm clocks are being set for tailgate parties, Lange can only hope the countless hours of planning pay off in the kind of experience Tulane has built a $75 million stadium selling.
“He’s done a great job, and we needed someone who could take all of the pieces and complete the puzzle,” Tulane executive associate athletic director Brandon MacNeill said of Lange. “We can’t just open the doors on Yulman Stadium and scan tickets and greet everyone. This is such a massive project, and we want to be the type of football program and department where a game day is a massive project.
“For years, it was pretty simple, and we had that down. But this is much more rewarding for us, and it doesn’t work unless there’s someone capable of pulling everyone in the same direction. That’s what John was brought on to do, and he’s done it well.”