Going For the Green

With the Yulman Stadium virtually paid in full, Tulane is eyeing economic prosperity as the football program returns to campus.

Forgive Tulane Athletic Director Rick Dickson for celebrating victory before the 2014 football season begins, but with the opening of the new on-campus stadium he can’t help but show his glee.

The rise of the 30,000-seat Yulman Stadium is invigorating Tulane alumni and friends of the program and dramatically changing the athletic department’s standing. With final projections for stadium construction at about $85 million, up from the initial estimates of $50 million, Dixon said the university expected to have the stadium completely funded by the time the Green Wave plays its first on-campus home game – a sell out – against former SEC rival Georgia Tech on September 6.

“That means there’s no debt service for the athletic department,” Dixon said. “That’s huge for our ability to fund programs going forward. We anticipate that this will be a game-changer for the entire athletic program.”

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For the past 40 years, Tulane has played its home football games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. While the dome is one of the premier stadiums in the country, it was simply too big for the crowds Tulane brought.

Dickson said he had reservations about the Green Wave playing in the dome when he first arrived at Tulane in 2000 and began immediately planning something different. In 2002, the Green Wave began playing a game per season at Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park.  

“We were able to create the feel and pageantry of a college football experience, and that led us to thinking about the idea of bringing football back to campus,” he said.

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The devastation of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina brought dark days for Tulane athletics, including the possibility of Tulane’s sports dropping from Division I to Division III, or even disappearing altogether.

Much credit should be given to Dickson and former Tulane President Scott Cowen for establishing their vision for athletics at Tulane and turning it into reality by rallying support and raising funds. The two are the major reason Tulane was able to raise $25 million for the stadium project within a year after it was announced in 2011.

The new stadium is named for former Serta owner and Tulane Board member Richard Yulman, who gave $15 million toward the stadium’s construction. Interior amenities will include 4,500 premium seats in two club sections – the Jill H. and Avram B. Glazer Family Club and the Westfeldt Terrace; a 94-by-24-foot LED video board and two ribbon video displays along the front of the top deck.  The artificial playing surface is known as Benson Field, in honor of Saints and Pelicans owners Gayle and Tom Benson, who gave millions to the project.

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“We had one shot at making this right,” Dixon said. “I think we got it right. To see tailgating sprawled across campus, to see our kids run out of the tunnel in front of a sold-out stadium…you may look over the terrace and see my office window overlooking the stadium open with a little cigar smoke wafting out.”


Now & Then

A comparison of Yulman Stadium with the original Tulane Stadium

Yulman Stadium
Opened: 2014
Capacity: 30,000
Cost: $85 million


Tulane Stadium
Opened: 1926
Capacity: 35,000
Cost: $300,000

 

 

 

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