LSU nutrition center to be built in Tiger Stadium; plans for separate facility scrapped amid state budget concerns _lowres

Advocate staff photo by Ross Dellenger -- LSU deputy athletic director Eddie Nunez shows the area where LSU's new nutrition center will occupy. The school has decided not to build a separate facility but to use an empty space in the south end zone addition of Tiger Stadium.

The long-awaited construction of LSU’s nutrition center on Skip Bertman Drive is no longer happening.

The center will now be a part of Tiger Stadium, said Eddie Nunez, deputy director of athletics in charge of projects. The athlete-only dining hall will occupy an empty floor of the south end zone addition, opened in 2014.

The school recently decided to scrap the idea of building a separate facility, with the state’s budget crisis in mind, Nunez said.

“We said, ‘Are we doing the right thing fiscally? Does it make sense with the budget crisis going on?” Nunez said. “This space is already here. We’re trying to take that foundation and design (of the nutrition center) and bring it here.”

Architects are currently in the process of creating designs to turn the 30,000 square foot space into a nutrition center and dining hall for athletes. The space is expected to include all of the amenities designed for the separate facility, including a large dining room, lounge area, cooking demonstration areas and a fueling station.

The area, even, already has its own kitchen.

“We’ll use the club level kitchen a floor above,” Nunez said.

A cost of the new plan is expected by the fall, Nunez said, but the price is expected to be less than the $12 million the Tiger Athletic Foundation already raised for the nutrition center. The construction will be only “cosmetic” in nature, Nunez said, as the space is already built – complete with windows, walls and thick cement flooring.

“We can spend the money in a more practical way with not having to construct a new building,” he said. “The cost to run it every year is also cut in half.”

Excess funds of the $12 million allocated for the project can be re-allocated by TAF for other projects.

The Advocate received a tour of the area Wednesday. Windows line one side of the space looking south. On the opposite side is an unfinished wall, butting against the top of the south end zone lower bowl of Tiger Stadium.

The move is an unexpected turn for a project that’s experienced a winding road since The Advocate reported its construction in December of 2014.

The program went deep into the process of constructing the nutrition center. Officials made the decision to scrap the plan during the bidding process just last month.

Construction on the 22,500-square foot athlete dining hall was originally expected to begin April 2015 before being put on hold amid proposed state budget cuts.

The nutrition center was expected to be one of many construction projects in the “Nicholson Gateway,” an area of planned development on and around the site of the old Alex Box Stadium and extending north down Nicholson Drive. The center would have been built just west of the new LSU Foundation building, which is located at the corner of Nicholson and Skip Bertman Drive.

TAF has canceled the lease on the property planned for the nutrition center, Nunez said, turning the area over to the university. Its future is uncertain.

The nutrition center’s addition to Tiger Stadium is one of many projects the university has in a long-term plan for the nearly 100-year-old stadium. Crews are currently cleaning out the former dorm rooms that line the south end zone’s exterior, and the school plans on demolishing them at some point, Nunez said, opening up the area for easier pedestrian traffic.

The nutrition center will only occupy half of the empty floor of the south end zone. The other could, at some point, be turned into another club level, Nunez said.

Across Nicholson Drive, LSU’s football operations is undergoing a facelift. The school is a month into a three-month long, $2.5 million renovation to the weight room. Also, the school is in the fundraising process for the second phase of the football operations project - expansion and renovations to the team’s locker room, training room and second-floor coaches on the west side of the building.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.