LAFAYETTE — It’s hard to tell who’s more excited.
Louisiana-Lafayette Athletic Director Scott Farmer’s hands are in constant motion when he spreads the blueprints for the department’s new athletic performance center, which is set for ground-breaking before the end of May.
A smile comes to the face of Ragin’ Cajuns football coach Mark Hudspeth when he talks about the in-progress expansion of Cajun Field, and what it will lead to over the course of the next few years.
“To finally see actual work being done, and progress being made, that’s pretty exciting,” Hudspeth said this week as he stood not far from the dirt being moved in the natural bowl of Cajun Field’s south end zone. “We’ve talked about it for three years, and now to see it finally starting, that’s the exciting part.”
Hudspeth’s squad will hold its final full practice of spring drills today and plays its annual spring game at noon Saturday at Cajun Field. The construction at the 43-year-old football stadium will not hamper the team or fans attending Saturday’s game, which is free and open to the public.
Construction on the permanent end-zone seating, which will bowl in the area that was formerly a grass hillside, began in March. Farmer said the addition that will include approximately 5,900 seats and bring Cajun Field’s capacity to just under 37,000 is slated for completion before UL-Lafayette’s home opener Aug 30 against state rival Southern.
The Lemoine Company of Lafayette, which just completed a massive renovation at Lafayette General Medical Center and has been involved with iconic buildings across south Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, is in charge of construction of the end-zone expansion and two other upcoming athletic projects.
“We get a written report from them every Friday giving an update on how it’s progressing,” Farmer said. “They haven’t run into any huge obstacles, but it’s still nice to be in communication with them on a regular basis. I sort of look forward to that every Friday.”
The end-zone phase of the stadium renovation is one of three major components in the first tier of the department’s athletic facilities master plan, a $115 million project that will update, remodel or reconstruct most of the school’s athletic facilities. The other two first-tier projects are the athletic performance center, a 70,000-square-foot, $12-plus million facility that upgrades football and other athletic facilities, and construction of a badly needed office and locker-room facility for the track-and-field and soccer programs.
The latter two projects are scheduled for completion in 2015. Carter, an Atlanta-based firm that provides the master plan’s supervisory management, said in a release that “Cajun Field expansions and improvements set to be completed in the fall of 2014, while remaining components are scheduled to be delivered in mid-2015.”
The other tiers in the master plan include renovation of the west side of Cajun Field and an adjoining athletic department center, renovation of the Moore Field baseball complex, upgrades to tennis and golf facilities and Earl K. Long Gym, expansion of athletic practice facilities and the academic center, and a sports plaza in the center of the athletic complex.
The $21 million price tag for the initial three projects is covered by Ragin’ Cajun Athletic Foundation bonds financed over 30 years. Subsequent tier projects will be financed through private fund-raising efforts, with those efforts currently in what athletic officials are calling a “quiet phase” of fundraising.
John Dugas, associate athletic director for internal operations, said that a public fundraising campaign would likely begin later this year to finance the projects.
“We’re very excited that they’ve actually started,” Dugas said. “I know how excited the public is about this project.”
Not as pumped as Hudspeth and Farmer, perhaps.
Farmer said the new performance center would include locker rooms and meeting rooms for the Cajuns football team, a weight room, training and medical facilities, football coaches’ offices, equipment room, position meeting rooms and a hydrotherapy room. It will be adjacent to the Moncla Indoor Practice Facility and cover much of the area between that building and the current athletic complex building, covering up part of Reinhardt Drive that runs through UL-Lafayette’s athletic facilities.
“Right now, all of our attention is focused (on the athletic performance center),” Farmer said. “We want to get started on that quickly. All three of these projects are included in the bond issue and the contract that’s already been issued, and it’s going to move pretty quickly once that work begins.”
“I’ll be the most excited when the first shovel goes in the ground for the new football facility,” Hudspeth said. “When that gets started here in the next five or six weeks, we’re really going to get things going.”
This story was changed on Friday, April 11, to correct the name of the company providing supervisory management for the master plan.