Football Stadiums: Tad Gormley Stadium

Is “new” really all that cool?  Is “big” really all that great?  What makes a stadium enjoyable might not be its novelty or size; it could simply be the tradition that renders it impressive.  The tradition of treading in the footsteps of generations in respective communities.  Take Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans, for example; it was a project built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression.

The stadium, situated in New Orleans City Park, was completed in 1937, and in 1957, it received its iconic name, Tad Gormley Stadium, formerly known as City Park Stadium, in honor of athletic trainer and coach Francis Thomas “Tad” Gormley.  Tad, a native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, moved to New Orleans to become an “Adopted Native Creole” of the Big Easy.

He headed the New Orleans Gymnastic Club and the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and served as the Head Trainer for Tulane, LSU, and Loyola.  If that weren’t enough, he also officiated games for the Prep School Athletic League and served as the Superintendent of City Park Stadium, which later became Tad Gormley Stadium.

During its inception, the stadium welcomed high school football games amid packed stands, with additional spectators filling standing-room-only areas around the field.  The peak of attendance was reached in 1940 when 34,345 fans gathered to witness a clash between Jesuit High School of New Orleans and Holy Cross High School of New Orleans.

Moreover, the stadium has hosted iconic LHSAA state championship football games.  The Class AAAA championship game occurred in 1971, with Brother Martin High School securing a 23–0 victory over New Orleans Catholic League rival St. Augustine High School in front of 25,000 spectators.  The last LHSAA title game hosted in the stadium took place in 1975, with John Curtis High School narrowly defeating Notre Dame High School of Crowley 13–12 for the Class AA title.

Over the years, the Tulane Green Wave football team played several homecoming games and non-conference games at Tad Gormley Stadium.  When the old renowned Tulane Football Stadium, which hosted the Super Bowls, was demolished, the Green Wave moved their football games to the New Orleans Super Dome.  This venue, with a capacity of 83,000, swallowed up the 20,000 fan base of Tulane, except when Tulane played LSU, which drew well over 70,000 fans.  In 2014, Tulane constructed Yulman Stadium on the Tulane campus with a capacity of over 30,000.  In many ways, the new stadium is a vastly improved version of Tad Gormley Stadium.

Hurricane Katrina flooded Tad Gormley Stadium, along with numerous sections of New Orleans.  The stadium maintained its structural integrity, but extensive repairs were needed for its electrical and plumbing systems, as well as the playing field.  A year after Hurricane Katrina, USC running back and Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, who was drafted by the New Orleans Saints, contributed a substantial sum to restore the playing surface of Tad Gormley Stadium.  Subsequently, the City of New Orleans named the playing field Reggie Bush Field.

So, is “new” really all that cool, and is “big” really all that great? The bigger question is, have we football fans lost our desire for local community tradition in favor of shiny new stadiums?  Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans endured the Great Depression and Hurricane Katrina to preserve tradition in New Orleans City Park.  Hopefully, in the future, Tad Gormley Stadium will remain a beacon in the minds of every high school football program in the New Orleans metro area and the fans will walk to their seats under the legendary Live Oak Trees of City Park.