Tulane’s football program isn’t just leaving behind a lifeless atmosphere in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It’s attempting to construct a unique home on campus at the new Yulman Stadium.
It may not be ready for prime time yet, but Tulane is more than happy to show off Yulman Stadium.
The Green Wave’s new football home is 65 percent complete, said athletic director Rick Dickson, who expects Tulane to play the first football game on its Uptown campus in 40 years when Georgia Tech comes to New Orleans for the home opener on Sept. 6.
Five months before Green Wave’s return to campus, Dickson and managers from Woodward Construction brought a throng of local media on Friday afternoon through the stadium’s various rooms, platforms and seating areas for the first unveiling. It’s all part of Tulane’s official ramping up toward the 2014 season, which began in earnest Tuesday when the school released its full allotment of tickets.
As crews ranging from 160 to 185 construction workers hammer their way toward completion seven days per week, Tulane is selling the vision of intimacy, uniqueness and high-level amenities to its fans.
“We want this to be a real taste of New Orleans,” marketing director Jason Potuto said. “We want to have the oysters. We want to have the po-boys. We want it to feel like Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest with a football game going on. It’s going to be a lot of fun and it’s going to be a lot different than people think about Tulane football right now.”
To help with the process of turning what has been an admittedly stale environment in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome into a raucous gameday event, Tulane enlisted the services of Barry Kern from Blaine Kern Studios at Mardi Gras World and Peter Mayer advertising agency to spruce up marketing across the city. Potuto said Kern’s goal is have a unique appeal to television cameras as they face the home sideline, comparing it to the oversized Coke bottle the Atlanta Braves have or the pirate ship at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ home.
But the true test of Yulman Stadium’s success, outside of the Green Wave’s on-field performance, is what’s available between Ben Weiner Drive and Audubon Boulevard, where a 94-by-24-foot LED video board will greet fans from the north end zone when they enter.
“We truly believe this place is going to do a lot for this university,” Dickson said. “We think it’s going to provide a great deal for our community, and we set out to make it a special place for people to come back to and enjoy.”
Dickson reiterated the stadium will hold 30,000 people and said there are 12,000 tickets currently remaining. If necessary, at a later date, the east sideline and north end zone can be expanded to add anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 total seats, Tulane University Relations Director Yvette Jones said.
Expansion was not on Dickson’s mind as he highlighted a few areas of Yulman Stadium which are multi-dimensional — including a Letterman’s Lounge for all former Green Wave athletes and the Glazer Family Club, which can be used not only on game days but will serve as the primary meeting spot for recruiting receptions and various university events.
The sprawling Glazer Club, located between the upper and lower levels of Yulman’s home sideline, is only open during games to donors who pledged at least $50,000 in donations over five years. It is more than 80 percent sold out, Dickson said.
For a $1,500 annual donation to the Tulane Athletics Fund, supporters can move up a level to the Westfeldt Terrace, which offers impeccable views of the New Orleans skyline, along with specialized food vendors, and a higher vantage point which Dickson repeatedly praised for its “verticality.”
“As a former football player, I can tell you from standing on the field, when you look up a see the structure the way it’s built, it’s really imposing,” Dickson said. “But there’s not a bad seat in this place. That’s the first thing I tell everyone.”
The visitor’s sideline is far less imposing, holding 30 rows of bleachers on one deck of seating — including the press box, which ranges between the 20-yard lines. With the exception of three middle sections, which require a $500 donation, these are the only tickets available without a donation to the Tulane Athletic Fund. They are $200 per seat.
In addition to the typical football seating, in the corner of the south end zone, Tulane installed a pair of bunker suites, which are currently available to rent on a game-by-game basis, and a pair of party decks in the corner of the end zone, which will be open to any ticketed person in attendance next year.
“We tried to have something for everyone here,” Potuto said. “It’s hard to do, but we wanted everyone to feel like they belonged and had a place to enjoy themselves and connect with Tulane football.”
Beyond fans’ enjoyment at the stadium, construction crews were forced to make some logistical and operationsaudibles. It built a water reservoir to handle the runoff at the former site of a 60-yard practice field between Yulman and Turchin Stadium, which will be filled in and replaced with another practice field later. Crews are also in the process of building a new entrance from the Green Wave’s home locker room in the adjoining Wilson Center to connect with its tunnel onto the field.
“This a huge project,” Dickson said of the $73 million facility. “It’s going to be great.”