University of Louisiana at Lafayette students and faculty could find an easier commute into the heart of campus next semester with a $21 million, six-story parking tower set to open next month.

The Girard Park Circle Parking Garage will offer more than 1,000 parking spaces, with cars entering between the university’s Oliver and Fletcher halls near the park.

The garage will mean a quick drive to late nights crafting art in neighboring Fletcher Hall art studios, listening to lectures in Rougeau or Griffin halls’ auditoriums or hours of programming in Oliver Hall’s computer labs. Students might be less likely to park illegally or forced into a hike from Cajun Field.

The tower also will alleviate congestion in the Earl K. Long Gym parking lot between Oliver Hall and Girard Park Drive, said Chris Welty, a university multimedia specialist.

The upper three levels — around 525 spots — will be reserved for students, faculty and staff who purchase semester parking passes. Spring and fall semester passes cost $250 per semester, and summer passes will cost $100.

As for the bottom levels, an automated pay station will be in place. Drivers can scan their university IDs and pay a flat rate of $6 per 12-hour period. Visitors also can use the garage.

“They will have to punch in the number of their space and pay with a credit card before they walk out of the parking tower,” Office of Transportation Services Director Cheri Soileau said in a news release.

Unlike the McKinley Street towers, the Girard Park Circle tower will not have an attendant or gate system. Those who don’t pay for their parking will be ticketed or have a tire lock put on their vehicle.

To increase security, the tower will be illuminated with LED lighting. LEDs are more energy efficient and brighter than fluorescent bulbs.

“This parking garage features LED lights throughout the entire garage, and the lights are on throughout the day, and at night, more LED lights kick on,” Welty said. “It’s extremely well lit.”

There will be 60 cameras in and around the tower to keep occupants and their vehicles safe.

“Safety and security are always main priorities for the university,” Welty said. “There’s dozens of security cameras mounted inside and outside of the parking garage. There’s also two ‘code blue’ boxes on each floor of the tower.”

When the buttons on the boxes are pressed, an emergency alert is sent to police.

Construction began in November 2013 and was completed earlier this month. The tower is part of the university’s master plan, and the $21.7 million cost was paid for through student-assessed fess, bond sales and outside sources. No state funds were used.

* Editor’s note: This story was edited post-publication to remove an attribution to Chris Welty, a UL multimedia specialist.