It will be the type of facility that Louisiana-Lafayette athletes only dreamed about not too many years ago, and Ragin’ Cajun football coach Mark Hudspeth knows what the Student-Athlete Performance Center will mean to his program.
The new building, though, has been a burr under Hudspeth’s saddle for the past two weeks, since the beginning of preseason drills. Admittedly not the most patient person to start with, Hudspeth has taken some long looks each time he’s walked by the 100,000-square-foot facility on the way to Ragin’ Cajuns practices.
But he hasn’t detoured off his path to the practice fields very often.
“I’ve tried not to go in there too much,” Hudspeth said. “It always seems like it’s not moving fast enough. It’s because we see it every day.”
The mammoth building that will provide weight, training and equipment facilities for all 16 Cajuns sports is hard to miss since it sits between the Moncla Indoor Center, the Cox Communications athletic complex and the football practice fields.
The wait is nearly over. Groundbreaking was held last Aug. 20, and the “official” completion day for the Lemoine Co. of Lafayette, the company constructing the facility, is Tuesday, Sept. 1, just over one year later.
In effect, though, the football and support staffs won’t be moving in full-time until the day after the Cajuns’ Sept. 12 home opener against Northwestern State. Everyone on the UL-Lafayette staff has Sunday, Sept. 13, circled on their calendars, moving boxes at the ready.
“It’s like it’s hard to wait because it’s so close,” associate athletic director for external affairs Rob Stewart said Friday. “There’s still a lot to be done, but now you can really see what an impressive building this is.”
The entire men’s and women’s athletic program will utilize the support facilities, but football will be the only sport whose offices will be in the building.
“Just about all of our other sports have their locker rooms and offices at their playing facilities,” Stewart said. “That just makes sense.”
The showpieces of the two-level building are the 12,000-square-foot weight room, one of the largest in the nation, and a state-of-the-art training facility that includes a huge hydrotherapy area. One innovation is a zero-entry hydrotherapy pool, with a floor that hydraulically lowers to give injured athletes full access.
That was the feature that stood out most to former Cajun standout and All-Pro defensive back Charles Tillman, now with the Carolina Panthers.
“Peanut saw that and said they didn’t have one of those,” Stewart joked.
The facility also has a 150-seat auditorium that can be divided several ways, and a football locker room that Hudspeth said should dazzle prospective recruits.
“Perception-wise, it’s going to add a lot to our program,” he said. “It’s going to help us recruit to an even higher level. The most important thing for these guys that are here now, it’s going to give them much better meeting space, much better strength and conditioning space and better training facilities to keep our current student-athletes healthy.”
Sept. 1 is also the targeted completion date for the new track-soccer facility located just off Bertrand Drive. That facility includes locker rooms for both men’s and women’s track and the women’s soccer team, as well as offices and support areas for both sports.
In fact, football isn’t the only team chomping at the bit for a move-in date. The Cajuns soccer team used temporary facilities at its first exhibition match of the season Saturday against Southeastern Louisiana, with the new track-soccer building still roped off.
The Performance Center and the track-soccer complex are the final two facilities to be completed in Tier 1 of the Athletic Facilities Master Plan which was unveiled in March of 2013. Two projects — a $57 million renovation of Cajun Field with an adjacent athletic administration building, and a $10-million-plus total renovation of the Moore Field baseball complex — are in Tier 2, and several smaller projects are in Tier 3.