Football coaches always say the biggest improvement takes place between Week 1 and 2.
It’s when adjustments come into play. After unknown quantities reveal themselves, the hypothetical questions disappear and the analysis begins.
For Tulane personnel, the week between opening Yulman Stadium and hosting the second game on campus provides a chance to correct unforeseen problems and make changes based on real-life events, not speculation. On Thursday, Tulane announced that fewer than 1,000 tickets remain for its 7 p.m. Saturday kickoff against Southeastern Louisiana, meaning Tulane is preparing for another near-capacity crowd.
“The feedback we received was really overwhelmingly positive, and people seemed to love the stadium,” Tulane chief operating officer Barbara Burke said. “We also had a lot of constructive criticism. There are a lot of things we figured out in-game that we were able to make adjustments on. There are some things we are going to be better on as we move forward, and people will notice it when they come into the stadium for Saturday’s game.”
The first improvement should be seen before fans even step foot inside Yulman Stadium. After watching lines snake down the street at the various entrances last week, Tulane is removing turnstiles and replacing them with extra ticket scanners to increase entry points and efficiency — with the goal of speeding up lines.
Inside, Tulane is adding signage and staff at entry points to show fans where to go and ensure people are moving in the proper direction to avoid clogging concourses.
An easily fixed issue was the staircase near the north end zone, which led to the Westfeldt Club on the stadium’s second deck. Rather than allowing ticket-holders to use the staircase, some stadium personnel were blocking off the entrance exclusively to those with passes for The New Orleans Advocate hospitality deck in the corner of the end zone.
That forced some Westfeldt members, who paid a minimum annual donation of $1,500 to the Tulane Athletic Fund for the right to purchase tickets, to be shuffled across the field to a jammed staircase handling double its expected pedestrian load.
“We have addressed that, and it will be corrected,” Burke said. “It’s just about us educating people about getting around the stadium and at the same time educating our staff so everyone has the same message.”
Tulane also attempted to create walkway space by relocating food carts in an attempt to limit lines. Last Saturday’s 95-degree temperatures also led to backups at concession stands, and Tulane addressed the issue by adding water-only stations to alleviate the lines.
The most complicated and long-term issue that cropped up was a backup in the north end zone concourse, which intersects the walkway from both teams’ locker rooms to the field, forcing Tulane to set up barricades there. As the teams moved back and forth from the field, it briefly shut off the traffic flow from those trying to get around the concourse, and the barricades forced people to fit through a smaller opening.
Considering there are no exits or entrances on the east sideline, any fans sitting there must use an end zone concourse to get to their section, exacerbating the pileups.
“Both teams cross the concourse, which is a major pedestrian walkway,” Burke said. “Once we educate our folks on what time the teams go on and off the field, I think that will help some. We have no choice but to shut the concourse down to get the teams on and off the field. That’s going to be an ongoing issue for us that we have to continue to get better at. We are working to ensure the closures are minimal.”
One area Tulane spent years planning and executed flawlessly was its interaction with the surrounding neighborhood. Outside of traffic leading to increased parking tickets and car towing, few incidents were voiced as a public nuisance.
“No, nothing,” said Tim Garrett, captain of the campus-adjacent Marlyville neighborhood, which communicates via the nexdoor.com network. “In fact, I proactively wrote to all the other neighborhood leads asking (about any issues stemming from the game), and the overwhelming response was, ‘All quiet here.’ ”