Cowen: Yulman Stadium ‘probably’ won’t be ready for 2014 opener

A new home for Tulane football is on the way, but it may not be coming as swiftly as expected.

Tulane President Scott Cowen said Friday that Yulman Stadium “probably” won’t be ready for the Green Wave’s 2014 season opener. Cowen, who is retiring from his post this summer, hosted his annual town hall chat and fielded a question about the construction of Tulane’s future on-campus home for football.

According to the transcript posted online, Cowen said his “aspiration” is to open Yulman Stadium “no later than Oct. 1.” While Tulane hasn’t released an official schedule for 2014, reports have shown Tulane hosting Southeastern Louisiana on Aug. 30 and Georgia Tech on Sept. 6 to start next season.

All 2014 home games were expected to be played in Yulman Stadium.

“A lot depends on the weather, how construction goes,” Cowen said, according to the transcript. “It probably won’t be open for the first home game but soon after.”

Sources within the Tulane athletic department said the construction schedule includes 42 rain dates that can be used to make up for a lag in the timeline, pending cooperative weather. So Tulane is not ruling out being ready for the season opener.

But even if the September timetable is questionable, the Green Wave (3-2, 1-0 Conference USA) likely will host its final homecoming game inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday afternoon when it faces North Texas (2-2, 0-0).

Homecoming is of particular significance to Tulane Athletic Director Rick Dickson, who said he can vividly picture a set of games between 2002 and ’08. Those are the games when the band marched between tailgate tents and under a canopy of City Park’s oak trees en route to Tad Gormley Stadium, where the Green Wave played five times in the outdoor setting.

Those afternoons are what Dickson pictures when he envisions next year’s homecoming, which is scheduled to unfold on campus for the first time since 1974.

“A lot of our impetus for this whole project was based on those five outdoor games we had at Tad Gormley,” Dickson said. “In each of those instances, we had ticket sales that went in the mid- to high-20,000s. I fully expect that to resonate even better with it being on our own campus and with the ability to offer a variety of packages that were unavailable to us.”

That diversity of offerings has kicked Tulane’s marketing staff and future game day operations into a higher gear, less than a year from the stadium’s expectant completion.

Tulane has sold more than 80 percent of its Medallion Level club seats, which require a $100,000 commitment spread over 10 years, and recently introduced Shield Level seats requiring a $50,000 donation over 10 years. Both allow access to the exclusive Glazer Family Club, which will be located between the two seating decks on the home sideline.

In addition to the club seats, Tulane is asking anyone wishing to secure 2014 season tickets in Yulman Stadium to make a $50 deposit per ticket. Tulane marketing director Jason Potuto said many of the season tickets in the stadium will cost less than $200 and estimated 9,000 seats won’t require a donation to the Tulane Athletics Fund.

He said in some instances, tickets will be more affordable than what’s available in the Superdome.

“We have been very diligent to make certain we create enough opportunities and enough levels that the people who want a high-end experience will get it, and those who want a more collegiate atmosphere and want to just enjoy a football game will get that,” Dickson said.

The central location for official tailgating is expected to be in the quad outside of the Lavin-Bernick Center, in the heart of campus. Potuto said the area is expected to host live bands, a beer garden, food vendors and prearranged tents for revelers who choose to go through Tulane.

Potuto said he expects fans to create their own tailgate experience and will be scouting game days at TCU and Ole Miss to brainstorm ideas for laying out Tulane’s campus in the most fan-friendly environment possible.

“I think The Grove (at Ole Miss) is pretty similar to us because it’s landlocked with no parking around it,” he said. “They have it down to a science about when you arrive, drop your stuff, park and come back. But there a lot of different departments and people who are affected by all of this, so we don’t have any hard answers on everything right now.”