We had the setup to this situation earlier this week on the Hayride. Tulane University, using their own money and their own private property, had a plan to construct an on-campus 30,000-seat football stadium in an effort to do something about their Scylla-and-Charibdis situation where gameday atmosphere for football was concerned.
The stadium would have allowed Tulane fans the chance to actually tailgate on campus before games and to enjoy something of a college football atmosphere. Tulane can’t get that by playing in the Superdome, and as a result the school struggles to draw hardly anybody to their games in that massive building. Tulane can get something of an atmosphere by playing in Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park, which is no closer to campus than the Dome is but at least offers a tailgate-friendly setting and a cozier stadium atmosphere. Problem is, Gormley is a high school stadium with facilities and amenities one would expect from a high school stadium, and without having ownership of Tad Gormley it doesn’t make sense for Tulane to invest in upgrading it (even if they would be allowed to).
Given that Hobson’s choice, the university’s top brass decided to raise money and build a stadium on campus, on a piece of land which currently has a field on it. A 30,000-seat stadium on campus has a far smaller footprint in the surrounding neighborhood than the 80,000-seat Tulane Stadium, which used to host the Sugar Bowl and the first few years of the New Orleans Saints as well as Tulane’s games, had.
And the state of the city ordinances in New Orleans indicated Tulane didn’t even need a permit for the stadium. But the NIMBY crowd, which has proven itself to be sensationally good at blocking new construction in that city’s uptown area, managed to find a city councilwoman willing to carry their water in Susan Guidry.
And today, Guidry managed to carry the day in blocking the stadium’s building. Specifically, Guidry proposed something called an Interim Zoning District, which essentially tells private universities in New Orleans – not just Tulane but Loyola, Dillard and Xavier as well – they can’t build anything of a size without the city council’s say-so. From WWL-TV’s report on the 4-2 vote…
The ordinance prohibits “the construction or expansion to existing structures of any building or facility within college and university campuses that will result in a building or facility in excess of 250,000 square feet of gross floor area and will cover a footprint of more than 50,000 square feet within any residential zoning district…”
If this ordinance looks a bit noxious from the standpoint of constitutionality, it could well be. It appears to single out the city’s private colleges for disparate treatment, and as it just so happens Tulane and Loyola both have law schools full of professors capable of filing a lawsuit on the issue.
New Orleans’ economy has undergone a large-scale expansion since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and in many ways that expansion was counterintuitive given the almost nonexistent state of the city’s public sector following the disaster (or even before). But with recent moves by the city council – two in particular being last month’s “regulatory reform” of the city’s mobbed-up taxicab business which will probably make things even worse and today’s chilling display of regulatory overreach – it should be little surprise to see much of that growth grinding to a halt as entrepreneurs and others wishing to ply their trade free of government interference recognize it just isn’t easy to do business in the Big Easy.