Four months ago, there was a renewed excitement in Tulane football. In the span of four days, Curtis Johnson was named the Green Wave’s new football coach and school officials announced plans to build a $60 million, 30,000-seat on-campus stadium.
Now, we get word that neighbors are appealing to the New Orleans City Council, asking for an interim zoning district to be put in place to allow for a study on how the project might impact the neighborhood.
Which is a nice way of saying they don’t want the stadium.
The political-type signs in yards say nothing about a study. They simply read “NO NEIGHBORHOOD STADIUM” and promote their website.
Call it the return of the NIMBYs. If that acronym is new to you, it means “not in my back yard.”
The last time I checked, Tulane has been around for nearly 180 years. For better than half a century, Green Wave football teams played home games on campus, much of it in Tulane Stadium, which was expanded to a capacity in excess of 80,000.
Tulane Stadium was the home of the Saints for the first eight years of the franchise, to the city’s first three Super Bowls, and to the Sugar Bowl from 1935-74. Without Tulane Stadium, there may be no Saints here today and we wouldn’t be hosting Super Bowls or BCS championship games.
I can remember going to games at Tulane Stadium as a youngster with my family. Even at my young age, it was apparent that the neighborhood embraced the stadium. Neighbors opened up their yards for people to park.
Where is that charm now for a stadium barely one-third the size of old Tulane Stadium?
Back to the NIMBYs. It seems to me that New Orleans has had a frequent problem with them. Over the years, they have challenged many a project that were poised to produce good-paying jobs while producing minimal to no negative impact.
I got a chance to witness it first-hand in 2003, when I was working at Fair Grounds. The legislature had approved slot-machine gaming at the track, subject to a vote of Orleans Parish voters. Only one neighborhood around the track had any objection. They not only made the most noise, but got other neighborhood associations from areas nowhere near Gentilly to get behind their cause.
At the end of the day, the vote passed, and eventually, slots arrived at Fair Grounds. Others, however, haven’t been as fortunate.
New Orleanians will remember in recent years Tulane’s quest to redevelop the portion of Uptown Square it purchased, or Stuart Hall, or when the owners of Gabrielle purchased a reception hall on Henry Clay Avenue.
The last of those was in the news just this week. Six years after Greg and Mary Sonnier of Gabrielle made their purchase, they have finally come up with a way to work around their zoning issues.
Here’s hoping that Tulane and its neighbors can come together to make this project happen much faster than that.
A few yards away from where Tulane officials hope to build their new stadium, there will be some big baseball games being played at Turchin Stadium this weekend when Rick Jones’ Green Wave plays host to Conference USA leader UCF.
Tulane hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in four years, the longest drought of Jones’ 19-year coaching career. The next three weekends will determine whether the Wave can snap the streak.
After UCF, Tulane visits East Carolina and then welcomes Southern Miss.
Eleven days ago, Tulane wasn’t even in the NCAA conversation with an RPI of 129. Remarkably, the Green Wave has moved up 50 spots since then, and has a chance to keep climbing.
The biggest difference this season: Tulane’s pitching, which is healthy this season and getting out the opposition to the tune of a 3.34 ERA. Of course, the hitting (.319 team batting average) and defense (.979 fielding percentage) hasn’t hurt anything either.
That, of course, is the second-biggest series among area teams this weekend, as LSU heads to Lexington to take on surprising Kentucky in a matchup of the top two teams in the SEC.
LSU has lost just once in the last three weeks to climb to the top of the national polls. The Tigers’ pitching has been outstanding as well, with a 2.96 staff ERA.
Which takes me back to the beginning of the season, when I heard Paul Mainieri talking about the ERAs of the teams who made it to the College World Series last year. Seven of the eight were below 3.00.
There are still five weekends remaining in the regular season plus conference tournaments, but if Kevin Gausman and Co. can maintain their success, Mainieri’s team will be in position to get a top eight seed in the NCAA Tournament – which would pave a road to Omaha going right through Alex Box Stadium.
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