LAFAYETTE — When trying to take in the grandiosity of Louisiana-Lafayette’s nearly finished $30 million, 100,000 square-foot Student-Athlete Performance Center (APC), it’s important to concentrate on the little things.
For instance, take the expansive 150-seat auditorium with matte black paint covering the walls and row upon row of slick leather seats emblazoned with the Ragin’ Cajuns logo. The room itself is massive and, to a point, gaudy. But remember the little things, specifically, the little things the Cajuns didn’t have before.
“Can you tell me what this room replaces?” athletic director Scott Farmer asked the media and former athletes receiving a tour of the facility Thursday. “We didn’t have one. Right now, when (football coach Mark) Hudspeth wants to have a meeting, he sits them on the floor in his locker room.
“My very first week on the job here, we had a departmental meeting and I sat in that locker room during two-a-days. It was disgusting. We vowed right then that we’ve got to make some changes.”
All those little things, the small time trappings of a growing athletic program, have been swept away in one massive undertaking. The facility that broke ground last August is now functional — though it still requires some minor cosmetic touch-ups — and will be ready to be moved into next week.
The APC is split into two wings; one area designed to accommodate every team and one area specifically devoted to football.
The weight room is a 12,000-square foot cavern filled with high-grade equipment, including 38 individual work stations that each bear a 500-pound load and 60 yards of racks that hold 180 pairs of dumbbells. Nearly every piece of equipment is engraved with the Ragin’ Cajuns logo, including the ventilation.
It was the first wing of the APC to be functional, as it has already replaced the old weight room. It’s nearly three times the size of the Cajuns’ old weight room, which was a necessity because some teams weren’t able to use the old facility all at once.
“We didn’t have enough space in that facility if the track team wanted to come in and work out as a single unit,” said Associate Director of Athletics for External Affairs Robert Stewart.
At the exit for the weight room is a nutrition window, where Louisiana-Lafayette dietetics students will prepare post workout meals.
Also available for every student athlete is the new athletic training room, which features a couple fancy new tools.
One segment of the training room is devoted entirely to hydrotherapy, with a long rectangular cold plunge pool that can fit as many as 25 football players at once. On the wall beside the pool are mounts for three of the facility’s nearly 100 televisions.
But the really cool feature in the room was the underwater therapy pool. What looks like a high-tech metal treadmill is hydraulically lowered below ground level, where it sinks into a pool that can go as much as eight feet deep.
Athletes can conduct low impact training as they recover from injuries in the pool, running underwater against resistance from jets. The pool also has six underwater cameras hooked up to recording devices so trainers can monitor athletes’ gait and make sure their mechanics are sound.
The football specific areas are a massive improvement over the Cajuns current home. The center of the locker room features a giant backlit Fleur-de-lis in the ceiling with a matching logo in the carpet below it.
Each individual locker has a locking cubby with electrical outlets inside so players can charge their devices during practice. There’s a leather chair inside the main compartment of each locker and the space for the helmets is back lit as well.
The spaces for the shoulder pads and cleats are sealed and have a ventilation duct in the back to prevent odor from permeating the room.
The exit door of the locker room leads directly to where the team will exit the building and head to the field, though it’ll have to navigate around the Cox Athletics Building until its demolition next year. There are plans in the works to turn that passageway into a hype room, complete with lighting and speakers blaring loud music.
The football coach offices and meeting rooms are on the second floor and feature windows overlooking the practice fields. The hallways and doorframes on the second floor were made wider than the rest of the facility to accommodate the larger people walking through them.
Hudspeth’s office — though still incomplete — is expansive, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a private balcony and changing room.
It’s all a lot to take in, so it’s important to focus on the little things, like the incremental differences a gigantic facility can make to keep the Cajuns on the upswing.
“It’ll help us recruit the best athletes that we can recruit, and help those athletes become the best they can be,” Farmer said. “This building does both.”