Facilities don’t matter. That’s what LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux used to tell herself when her Tigers had to work out in a space that wasn’t much more than a cramped afterthought in a wing of the Carl Maddox Field House.
“People who have bad facilities and work really hard say that,” the ever-candid Breaux said. “I said that for a long time. You do that because you don’t want your facilities to be a negative for you in recruiting.
“But this,” Breaux said, “is a very positive recruiting tool.”
“This” is LSU’s new gymnastics practice facility. It’s a massive structure of brick and glass and LSU architecture-inspired arches parked between the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and the old Dub Robinson Tennis Stadium, which LSU’s tennis teams deserted this year for a long-needed new facility near Alex Box Stadium.
The facility isn’t complete yet. Gymnasts tumble across the padded floor while construction crews continue to install ceiling tiles and audio wiring. But what it is already is impressive, a sign of the times for a program that no longer has to apologize for or deflect its structural deficiencies.
“A palace” is the way junior all-arounder Ashley Gnat described her team’s new home. “It’s magnificent in every single way,” she said.
State-of-the-art is always a moving target, whether the subject is technology or a building. But for now, LSU boasts that its new home isn’t just the best of its kind in college gymnastics, but perhaps anywhere in the sport.
Breaux credited the practice facility getting built to support from the administration.
“It was one of the first things I wanted to do when I got here,” said Athletic Director Joe Alleva, just a couple of months shy of eight years at LSU. “It took a while, but we got it done.”
Alleva credits Breaux, her drive and determination not dulled one bit by the fact that Saturday’s meet against No. 1 Oklahoma marks the start of her 39th season — a record for any LSU coach in any sport.
“I think she may be more feisty than ever,” Alleva said, an appreciative glint in his eye. “She’s a real competitor, and she loves LSU.”
Sixth-floor financial backing aside (that’s where the business office is in the athletic administration building), it’s no stretch to say the new gymnastics facility exists because Breaux willed it to be there. She waited and pushed and prodded and fought, and now it’s reality — and a huge foundation for her already-successful program as it tries to reach even greater heights.
The prospect of the new facilities helped LSU pull in the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class this year, a class that will have to help fill the routines left vacant by a great senior class that included Baton Rouge native Rheagan Courville, Lloimincia Hall and Jessie Jordan.
“It definitely was a factor,” said Lexie Priessman, a freshman from Cincinnati regarded as a headliner of this year’s class. “But I don’t think this was what determined my decision. The coaches and athletes did that. I felt like this was my home.”
LSU has been to the Super Six, gymnastics’ version of the Final Four or College World Series, four times. Its most recent trip was in 2014. Bringing home a Southeastern Conference title, which has eluded LSU in its hyper-competitive league since 1981, or the program’s first NCAA title remains the target.
A target the Tigers feel is closer than ever, even inevitable.
“I think a championship is in the very, very near future,” Gnat said. “Being in this facility creates an advantage for us and an opportunity to do that.”
Given all that’s gone into LSU’s fancy new home, you just know there’s space dedicated for displaying trophies.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.