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Unsung Heroes

Power Lift a major player in Tulane\'s recovery from Katrina
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Monday, August 29, 2005. In the early morning hours, category 3 Hurricane Katrina slams into Louisiana and Mississippi, barely missing a direct hit on New Orleans. The worst damage is initially concentrated on the Gulf Coast, but within the next 24 hours it becomes apparent that the levee system designed to protect New Orleans is failing. Some levees are topped by the high water in Katrina’s wake and others are completely breached. By the end of the day on Tuesday, 80% of New Orleans is under water. The costliest natural disaster in U.S. History, Katrina causes over $80 billion in damage.

Tulane University’s main campus is in the heart of New Orleans, just a few miles from their home football field in the Louisiana Superdome. With the entire city devastated by Katrina and the Superdome heavily damaged, it was immediately apparent that Tulane’s football season was in jeopardy. While New Orleans and its people would suffer the most, Tulane Green Wave sports teams and the entire university would endure serious disruption – the extent of which would only be fully understood in the days ahead.

By midweek, Tulane Athletic Director Rick Dickson had already overseen the evacuation and temporary relocation of all of the university’s athletic teams; the football team spent two nights in the gymnasium at Jackson State before moving on to SMU. Now, he had to deal with the larger issue of what to do about the 2005 season. “After conferring with our coaches and student athletes, who strongly indicated a desire to continue, I presented a plan to Tulane President, Scott Cowen that kept all 16 of our teams together on four campuses for the fall semester of 2005,” recalled Dickson. At the end of the week, Cowen announced that, although no classes would be held on the Tulane campus that semester, the Green Wave athletic teams would continue to compete. “Their charge,” said Dickson, “was to ‘Carry the Torch, Be the Face and Represent the Name’ of Tulane University and New Orleans as our university could not open its doors for the first time in 174 years.”

With a return to campus out of the question, Dickson arranged for the football team and staff to set up their ‘home’ base for the season at Louisiana Tech. And, with offers from other universities, he and his staff managed to place Tulane’s six home games originally slated for the Superdome at six different venues throughout the region. The net result – 11 games in 11 stadiums in 11 weeks and a monumental logistics challenge.

As they improvised their way through the season, the Green Wave were greeted with outstretched arms by the universities and communities they visited. Donations of travel, hotels, food and equipment eased the hardship and uplifted the entire program. However, to no one’s surprise considering the adversity they and their families endured, the team failed to produce a winning record. But the outpouring of support from schools, cities and fans and the determination and perseverance of the players and staff were victories for the human spirit.


The James W. Wilson Center is the on-campus home of Tulane athletics. Known as one of the finest collegiate athletic facilities in the country, it houses the teams’ locker rooms, strength and conditioning facility, equipment rooms and athletic department offices. After Katrina, over five feet of water stood in the first floor.

According to Rick Dickson, “The water was there for three weeks, effectively destroying our facilities. All of our athletic gear and equipment was totally lost.”

Opportunity often accompanies misfortune, and, for Dickson, the rebuilding of the Wilson Center provided the opportunity to upgrade the department’s strength and conditioning facility. Since they were starting from square one, Dickson’s goal was to make the facility bigger and better. “We wanted to better enable over 350 student athletes to develop and compete at both the C-USA and Division I levels,” he recalled. “It was also the opportunity to broaden our ability to service our entire menu of sports rather than a limited few.”

By the end of the year, Dickson was back on the Tulane campus and fast-tracking the new strength and conditioning facility project. The first and most important call he made was to Power Lift President Jeff Conner on Christmas Eve. “I called Jeff because he had been highly recommended,” said Dickson. “He listened to our dilemma and immediately sent some Power Lift representatives after Christmas.”

Mike Richardson, Sales and Marketing Director for Power Lift, made the trip to New Orleans over the holidays and met with Dickson and the strength and conditioning coaching staff to assess their needs, objectives and budget. “Creating a new strength and conditioning complex on the collegiate level is a serious investment and a process that involves major decisions that can ultimately affect the program’s success,” said Richardson. “In Tulane’s case, those decisions needed to be made very quickly, since we were dealing with roughly a 90-day start-to-finish timeline. Fortunately, Rick and his staff were committed to having the best equipment and the budget hurdle had already been cleared.”

During this initial “concept” phase of the process, Richardson and the Power Lift team worked with the Tulane staff to determine the best way to utilize the available space and build an equipment list based on the program’s goals. Power Lift offers multiple rack and platform systems, supplemental training equipment for the upper and lower body as well as equipment for the dumbbell area, so there were many options to consider. Using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) technology, a facility layout was developed to show actual placement of various pieces of equipment. “The CAD layout was very helpful to Tulane in the planning process and in the selection of equipment,” explained Richardson.

Tulane’s choice of Power Lift equipment included 9-foot Combo Power Racks, Olympic platforms, “Lever Action” benches, Multi-Angle dumbbell benches, Rotating Glute Ham benches, a Reverse Back Extension, a Dual Stack Functional Training unit, 4-Way Necks, Rack Dip attachments, a Modular 4-Station Pulley unit, dumbbell racks, oak technique boxes, 3 1/2 tons of dumbbells with custom logos and over nine tons of plates.

Working hand-in-hand with Tulane’s staff, Power Lift was able to complete the project ahead of schedule. Equipment was delivered and installed by factory-trained Power Lift employees in March 2006. “We were able to open the new strength and conditioning facility on April 1st as part of the ‘Grand Re-Opening’ of the Wilson Center,” said Dickson. And the result? “We are better equipped to train and develop all of our student athletes than at any time in Tulane history.”

Dickson summed up his opinion of Power Lift with a glowing endorsement, “Power Lift is the most responsive company we’ve ever worked with, and their products and services are second to none.”

Living through Katrina and its aftermath was a difficult and often tragic ordeal for residents of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, including members of the Tulane University family. But, to Rick Dickson, the tragedy has also brought out the best in the community as neighbors help neighbors and companies aid in the massive rebuilding effort. As he put it to AFM, “Power Lift is one of the many unsung heroes emerging from Hurricane Katrina.”

You can read an in-depth account of the 2005 Tulane football season, “Tulane Athletics and the Katrina Semester”, in the news archives at

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