Louisiana-Lafayette’s baseball program will open the doors to a prettier, more modern M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field next season.
Exactly how and when the Ragin’ Cajuns get there is still unclear.
In an email sent to fans Friday and jointly signed by athletic director Scott Farmer, baseball coach Tony Robichaux and two members of the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation, the university said the cost of the ballpark’s renovation has risen from $10 million to $16 million.
But UL-Lafayette is moving ahead with construction, the email said, and it will secure “bridge funding” to cover the gap.
Athletic department spokesman Matt Sullivan declined to say how UL-Lafayette is making up the difference but said the project “is a done deal. This is going to happen. We are working with the construction company on a move-in date. But we will be in it at some point in 2017.”
What’s still unknown is whether the stadium will be ready in time for the Cajuns’ home opener. The date and opponent aren’t set, but the college baseball season typically begins in mid- to late February.
Sullivan said it’s possible construction could last into the season and that UL-Lafayette is looking into contingency plans, such as alternate locations and schedule changes, if Moore Field isn’t ready.
“We hope that’s not the case, but there’s a possibility there could be,” Sullivan said. “That’s something we kind of prepared for when this project came through.”
Sullivan said UL-Lafayette and the RCAF are still actively raising money for the project.
“We’re confident that we’re going to get there,” he said. “As of right now, all of our pledged payments are up to date.”
The university originally planned to raise $10 million to renovate the Cajuns’ beloved and often-packed ballpark, which averaged 4,060 fans per game last season.
After getting more input from fans, coaches and players, however, UL-Lafayette decided on more upgrades, bringing the cost of the project to $16 million, according to Friday's email.
When construction is complete, the Cajuns will have a much more modern home for a program that has emerged as one of the best from a mid-major conference.
The Cajuns had one College World Series appearance in 2000 under Robichaux. In the past three seasons, they’ve won three straight Sun Belt tournaments and appeared in two super regionals, losing at home to Ole Miss in 2014 and to LSU in Baton Rouge in 2015.
The Cajuns finished 43-21 this season and hosted a regional, which Arizona won.
Fans have rewarded UL-Lafayette's success, showing up to Moore Field by the thousands with good food and strong voices, creating one of the better atmospheres in college baseball.
According to the NCAA’s database, the Cajuns ranked 17th this season in Division I in attendance; its average home crowd of 4,060 was second-best in the state behind LSU. Tulane was third in Louisiana with an average home crowd of 2,227.
Renovations to Moore Field will include new grandstands, a new concourse area, new suites, a new press box, more concession stands and a more modern facade. This year’s changes represent the second phase of a project that began last year, when construction crews took down light standards and moved them back, making room for the next round of upgrades.
“We anticipate the ‘Wow!’ factor will prove worth the wait and significantly benefit the Ragin' Cajuns and our fans next season and for many seasons to come,” Friday’s email said.