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JOESAM2002 08-06-2003 12:21 PM

From the Way to cool department........
I don't know about you guys but I think this would be Bad to the bone!

A Jazzfest feel is envisioned as the Saints make a pitch for a tailgating park$ along a barren stretch of Poydras between the Dome and Broad Street

Tuesday August 05, 2003

By Lynne Jensen
Staff writer

There may be more talk about what's cooking outside the Superdome than inside when the Saints play football if team, state and city officials whip up a winning recipe for a nearby tailgating park.

The ultimate proposal for New Orleans, the only National Football League city that doesn't offer a tailgating area for fans, is a 25-acre park, stretching along Poydras Street from the Dome to Broad Street. It would include a tailgating section and an entertainment area offering stages for music and tents for food vendors, meant to create a Jazzfest atmosphere for fans, some arriving via light rail from Armstrong International Airport and Six Flags New Orleans.

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But don't defrost those ribs just yet. Plans for the park are, at present, half-baked.

"I can only talk about it conceptually at this point," Arnold Fielkow, Saints executive vice president for administration, said last month.

A local urban planner said the proposed tailgating park would incorporate about 25 acres of state and city property between the Superdome and Broad Street and Poydras and Howard avenues.

The park is part of a multifaceted plan recently presented by the Saints to the state as part of a redevelopment package that the team says is necessary "if we're going to stay in the Superdome," Fielkow said.

Recalling the fun of tailgating in his hometown of Green Bay, Wis., Fielkow said he hopes the park, patterned after Atlanta's 21-acre Centennial Olympic Park, will become reality by next football season.

Centennial Park, next to the Georgia Dome, was created for the 1996 Olympic Games. It offers free admission and features a water attraction and sites for concerts, picnics and art exhibits.

The New Orleans park would be a combination of public green space to be enjoyed year-round, especially as a lunch spot for people working nearby, combined with a parking and tailgating area that could be used during Superdome events, including conventions, Fielkow said.

Tailgating could "greatly help Tulane football," he said.

"We would certainly support any initiative that would create a more fan-friendly environment," said Steve Walsh, director of marketing for the Tulane University athletic department. Tailgating "adds to the overall atmosphere of any sporting event, . . . to the overall fan experience," he said.

The park probably would include 7.5 acres of vacant city property along Poydras Street between Galvez and Broad streets, where a multimillion dollar shelter for homeless people was proposed in 1997 but never built.

More bang for the buck

Tailgating is the "12th player" that will guarantee a trip to the Super Bowl, said Joe Cahn, local food guru and self-proclaimed commissioner of tailgating.

Cahn, 55, has served countless bowls of jambalaya from his recreational vehicle outside stadiums across America.

"It's the Saints' and the City Council's obligation to give this to us," he said of the park.

Tailgating would offer fans more for their money when buying a Saints ticket, Cahn said. "The dollars that the average fan is paying for a ticket have doubled over the last five to seven years, and it's still the same 60-minute game. What tailgating does is turn it into a seven-hour special event."

Fielkow agrees.

The park "would allow the fans to come early and enjoy themselves and stay after the game and enjoy themselves," he said. Without a tailgating venue, "we as a city have not experienced what other fans in other NFL cities have."

Fielkow said he likes the idea of a "mini-Jazzfest" atmosphere on game day, with stages for music and tents for food vendors. "That would be tremendous for our fans," he said. "There are fans who can't afford to go to every game, but they tailgate."

The park also should draw convention groups, he said. "Many of these groups would love to have an area for tailgating," he said.

The new New Orleans?

If the empty green space along Poydras between the Dome and Broad Street were transformed into a tree-lined park, people entering downtown from the west would be greeted with signs of economic development, Feilkow said. The park would say, "Welcome to the new New Orleans," he said.

Mayor Ray Nagin, who mentioned the park as part of his economic development initiative during his state of the city address in May, said he will help the Saints accumulate land and that "several locations are being considered."

Urban planner and artist Robert Tannen said he and architect Ray Manning presented the mayor with plans for the park in April as part of a larger redevelopment plan for "Superdome neighborhoods."

Manning said plans for the park, designed by Tulane University architecture students, and a budget, estimated by his firm, were presented in early 2002 to developer and preservationist Pres Kabacoff, who is serving on a state blue-ribbon commission studying Dome redevelopment.

"The idea truly originated with Bob Tannen," Manning said.

From fancy to 'real cheap'

"This reminds me of Greek ruins," Tannen said, driving his red station wagon amid the support pilings of an overhead expressway near the Dome. The state-owned land includes about 10 acres of mostly fenced-in area between the Dome and Galvez that would be a perfect spot for tailgating, with large grassy areas for picnicking, he said.

"And there are at least another 10 to 15 acres of land available toward Broad," he said.

Using the 25 acres of state- and city-owned land, a "fancy" park could be created for $10 million, Tannen said. A modest park would cost about $7 million, and a "real cheap" park would run between $2 million and $3 million, he said.

The park would be a joint venture among the state, city and Saints, Tannen said. "It would be a public entity," he said. It could be expanded in the future to include adjoining private land and could double to nearly 50 acres, Tannen said.

"The state would be a potential participant" in financing the park, said Andy Kopplin, Gov. Foster's chief of state. But he said that can't happen until the state Legislature meets in the spring because "the state has no money for this project in the current budget."

The Legislature is more likely to support the park if the "local legislative delegation is pushing for it," Kopplin said. "It's got to be driven on the local level. . . . You've got to have community support."

Sense of community

The park could become an "urban oasis," Kopplin said.

Tannen envisions a streetcar spur running from Lee Circle west along Howard Avenue to the park.

Kabacoff said he envisions a light rail system carrying fans to and from the park from Armstrong International Airport in the west and Six Flags New Orleans in the east.

Cahn envisions tailgaters buying fresh produce and seafood from a farmers' market at the park before Saints games.

Cahn said that when he tailgates in New England, he often buys Maine lobsters to cook and sometimes arrives a day ahead and fishes for them.

His favorite tailgating creation is "a big -- and I mean big -- pot of jambalaya," he said. "You share some jambalaya with somebody, and you're friends forever."

Tailgating is "the biggest social affair in this country," Cahn said. "It's not a bunch of drunks in a parking lot. It's this wonderful sense of community. The last great American neighborhood."

SaintNik 08-06-2003 09:06 PM

From the Way to cool department........
This will be a terrific enhancement to the area for other events and uses as well. It will improve the image of the entire area. Tailgating has been absent from Saints/Tulane games since the dome opened for play in 1975. This will give the fans for both a wonderful experience. If they could just move back the kickoff time to 3:00 it would really allow pre-game parties to roar. Even with the noon kickoff, this would allow a post game celebration without everyone leaving the game a few minutes before end to try and beat the I-10 traffic only to end up in it anyway. If dome officials could just figure out how to eliminate the big echo with a live pa system instead of that dead sound that can barely be heard. Bring back the gondala with huge clear screens and a killer sound system.

arksaint 08-06-2003 10:48 PM

From the Way to cool department........
That sounds like that would be a very :cool: idea.

ssmitty 08-07-2003 06:43 AM

From the Way to cool department........
js, i remember many yrs back that they use to have a miller beer truck in the parking lot of the dome that use to give all the beer you could drink before the game......i even think i remember the driver\'s name,,mike, tell me this..........who among you remember going to the games in the bad yrs and seeing tickets left on the windshields of cars under the wipers free for the taking? i remember having extra tickets once, leaving them under the wipers and coming back after the game to find more tickets than i sh#t, really did happen........never a dull moment at the super dome............smitty

JOESAM2002 08-07-2003 08:38 AM

From the Way to cool department........
Ah, the glory days of yesteryear. LOL. Yes, I remember them.

daviddrake2 08-07-2003 09:08 AM

From the Way to cool department........

I can relate. My senior year of high school I was dating a girl whose father happily gave me a dozen prime 40 yard line tickets for every home game that year. He had purchased them for clients, but no one wanted them because this was during the infamous \'Aints\' season -- the \'80-\'81 season.

Every week I would invite all of my friends, but could never get more than a couple to take me up on the free seats on any given Sunday, even though the offer included all the free beer you could drink and various munchies from the University Club in the Dome.

So, as any enterprising 18 year old would do, I always arrived at the Dome at least an hour before kick-off and did my best to sell the extra tickets for anything I could get for them. On a good day, I might make $50, but usually I was lucky to make $10 or $20 and give the majority of the tickets away to anyone who would take them (half of the time, that was homeless guys who would just try try to sell them for a buck or two rather that suffering through a likely defeat in the Dome).

Still, we all had a great time. I enjoyed being there, even though we lost almost every game that year. And I\'ve never had as good seats since.

Hopefully, we\'ll never have to deal with another season quite so trying, but if we do, I also hope that there are more SAINTS fans like me that will still brave the shame (I never wore a bag on my head) and support our team, no matter what.

Go SAINTS!!!!!

David in Houston

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