LAFAYETTE — There were roughly 250 tons of dirt covering the Cajundome floor Sunday.
As of Tuesday afternoon, that dirt was safely in the parking lot, and the arena was just about ready to host a pair of Louisiana-Lafayette postseason basketball games.
“It’s a massive undertaking,” said Phil Ashurst, the Cajundome’s operations director.
It was also just another day for a crew that works around the clock to prep the arena to house whatever is coming next.
Last weekend, the Cajundome hosted an AMSOIL Arenacross event. The process of getting the Cajundome ready for that started after Wednesday’s Louisiana IceGators game.
The process began by covering the ice with a standard ice-floor covering — a 2-inch-thick combination of masonite, plywood, insulation and trimmed-down 2-by-4s. That goes on every time the arena is prepped for a basketball game, to ensure the surface temperature of the court is not affected by the ice below.
From there, the Cajundome crew put down a layer of Visqueen (a polyurethane plastic sheeting) and then screwed on an additional ¾-inch plywood covering, holding those in place with what they call the “donut” — a series of 4-by-6 boards where the hockey rink dashboards normally go — to keep everything in place.
“Once you do all that, you’re ready for the dirt,” Ashurst said.
The dirt — roughly half a million pounds of it — was transported from Blackham Coliseum by a local contractor. Feld Motor Sports placed the dirt and made ramps, hills and jumps for the arenacross event.
On Sunday evening, Ashurst and the Cajundome crew started removing the dirt. They found out late that night that the men’s basketball team would be hosting a game Wednesday, starting the process of transforming the venue back into a basketball court.
“Sunday, we took all the dirt out. Monday morning, a crew came in and started unscrewing the plywood from the ice floor covering,” Ashurst said Tuesday afternoon. “We got all that plywood pulled out (Monday), started cleaning up dirt that night, then this morning they came in and put the basketball court down. It’s just about done right now. The court’s all down. They’re still cleaning up a few details, and we’ll do a bit more cleaning to make sure we don’t see much evidence of the dirt we had last weekend.”
The Cajundome interior will look virtually unrecognizable at Wednesday night’s basketball games for fans who were at Sunday’s arenacross event. And then, once the basketball games are over by around 10 p.m. Wednesday, the crew will go right back to work.
The next event on the Cajundome calendar? A rodeo this weekend, which is why the dirt hasn’t returned to its Blackham Coliseum home.
“It’s nerve-wracking for those that haven’t done it before,” Ashurst said. “It’s got that whole unknown factor. But the crews handled it very well; they just did a great job of figuring things out. Now that they’ve got this one under their belt, we’ve got to go back to dirt this weekend.”
Someone’s got to do the dirty work.
Getting to know you: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
A look at the Ragin’ Cajuns’ opponent Wednesday in the CollegeInsider.com tournament:
Top player: Junior forward Rashawn Thomas averages 16.6 points and 8.1 rebounds.
Stat to know: Six of the Islanders’ seven losses came to NCAA tournament teams.
Quotable: “They’ll play fast; they’ll want to score the ball. They can put the ball in the basket, so hopefully it will be an entertaining game. But we like to get up and down; I’d rather play a game like we just played last week against South Alabama than Little Rock. If we can get going up and down a little bit, I think that favors us.” — Cajuns coach Bob Marlin