Birmingham becomes ‘home away from home’ for Tulane sports following Hurricane Ida evacuation

October 02 2021 06:00 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — After being forced to evacuate New Orleans due to Hurricane Ida, the Tulane Green Wave football team will face Morgan State in a free game at Legion Field Saturday.

“We’re excited to be able to welcome these two schools to Legion Field and show them what Birmingham is all about,” Councilor Clinton Woods said in a statement released Wednesday. “It’s no surprise that we love college football here and this is another great opportunity to showcase that and to welcome our neighbors from New Orleans who are still picking up the pieces left by Ida.”

The gates will open at 10:30 a.m. with kickoff scheduled for noon.

Coordinators say that when Ida hit, nearly 400 student athletes, coaches and staff evacuated to the Magic City. Currently closed for renovation, the Sheraton downtown has become a makeshift, temporary village for the Green Wave. It allows them to train, even compete, while waiting to return to New Orleans. 

“There will be a lot more Tulane green in the city,” Tulane Deputy Athletic Director Chris Maitre said.

Seven Tulane teams are currently posted up at the Sheraton in downtown Birmingham, including football, basketball, golf, volleyball, even bowling. It amounts to 400 student athletes, coaches, staff and their families and pets.

“Trying to settle into a routine has been a challenge when you’re displaced like this,” Maitre said.

While gearing up for their sport’s season, Maitre said 90% of his staff are also dealing with damage due to Hurricane Ida.

“In between dealing with adjusters, trying to figure out if your family can even go back,” he said.

Maitre said these student athletes are in Birmingham on business, working to continue their competitive seasons, without worrying about what’s going on in New Orleans, as much as possible.

“For student athletes to practice and train year around and want to perfect their sport, we don’t wanna take any time off,” he said.

Maitre says they are trying to keeping morale up, while also providing the necessities, like laundry and transportation. He said they have weekend, group trips planned to places like, Top Golf and the Birmingham Zoo.

“They are being well taken care of and quite frankly, as much as we can spoil them, we’re trying,” said Maitre.

Tulane Basketball player Jaylen Forbes is calling the approximate, month-long stay a blessing in disguise.

“We really haven’t missed a beat,” Forbes said. “It’s just good team bonding, just a chance to get closer to each other.”

The former Crimson Tide athlete said it’s strange being back after transferring to Tulane.

“I don’t know. It’s kind of weird, I guess,” said Forbes. “It’s kind of fun, but weird at the same time.”

After Katrina, the Magic City became Tulane Athletics’ evacuation destination.

“Birmingham met all the items that we needed– major airport, good infrastructure, great hotel system, lots of sports facilities. And were using every bit of those sports facilities around town,” Maitre said.

Forbes and Maitre agree, folks in the Magic City have been nothing but hospitable.

“It’s been fantastic so far,” Maitre said.

The Green Wave will utilize the Crossplex, Mountain Brook High School, the Finley Center and Legion Field.

While parts of New Orleans have regained power, many of its teams have not returned back to relief needed in the city. From Sept. 17-8, Tulane’s volleyball team will host a free tournament at the Bartow Arena.

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