Sports complex planned for Fly’s green space

Robert Marchini, Staff Reporter

Over a phone call, The Audubon Commission, regulator of The Riverview (known colloquially as The Fly), told Michael Nius that his sculpture was to be removed as a new sports complex planned to take over the green space.

Nius, a member of the Tulane class of 1971 and a professor of practice in the School of Architecture for 32 years, designed a sculpted amphitheater on The Fly. The phone call from the commission informed Nius that the Carrollton Boosters, a sports club with playing and practice fields on part of The Fly, had received permission from the commission to expand their fields, and that his sculpture would have to be dismantled.

The sculpture, like The Fly itself, is a popular spot for casual gatherings, company retreats, birthdays and similar events. Upset by the commission’s plan, a protest movement called Save The Fly NOLA organized against the changes. On Sunday, the group asked supporters and lovers of The Fly via a Facebook event to spend their day there as way to show their support.

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Will Potts | Photography Editor

The new artificial turf field and parking lots, planned to occupy 2.5 acres, will replace existing green space and mature oak shade trees used by students and community members. A substantial portion of The Fly’s public space, including public art and a playground, will be changed in the area of the complex, which is not open to non-members.

Land use at The Fly is regulated by The Audubon Commission. The commission’s members are appointed by Mayor Landrieu; many of them serve on other boards around the city, including several members also serving on boards at Tulane.

“I love to see other people’s interaction with the sculpture — it gains different meaning for other people, and that’s the joy of it and what it’s intended to be,” Nius said.

Frustrated, Nius mentioned the plans to his friend Bill Ives, a retired New Orleans-based consultant and painter. Ives contacted the Carrollton Boosters, but was informed by John Payne, who is overseeing the project, that they couldn’t change their plans and moving the planned new fields was considered unfeasible.

Ives decided to organize the protest movement to preserve The Fly as-is. He now serves as the de facto leader of Save The Fly NOLA and hopes public outcry will make The Audubon Commission and Carrollton Boosters reconsider.

“This is the only green space by the river in the greater New Orleans area — it’s very unique,” Ives said.

The Carrollton Boosters detailed their plans to supporters and club members in an email obtained by TV station WDSU. They note that the $4 million project is being fully funded by private donations from notable individuals including Tom and Gayle Benson (owner of the New Orleans Saints and member of the Tulane board, respectively), Saints quarterback Drew Brees and corporations like IberiaBank. Payne, in a written statement provided to The Hullabaloo by the Audubon Institute, noted the large demand for new turf fields.

“There continues to be a growing demand for youth athletic programs and fields as demonstrated by the high demand for the Avenger Field that opened in 2012,” read the statement, in part. “Last year, 4,200 families participated in Carrollton Boosters programs.”

A meeting of the City Council’s Community Development Committee was held to bring both sides to the table. While it may be too early to tell the result of the ongoing debate, those discussions for The Fly’s future will not go down easily.