NEWS

University of Louisiana baseball stadium renovation gets green signal

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

A stamp of approval has been granted for major renovation at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's baseball stadium to get underway sometime before next season begins, and plans call for just that to happen, Ragin' Cajuns athletic director Scott Farmer said.

The project is part of the second tier of the university's three-tiered athletic facilities masterplan.

"I think you'll see some activity (at the ballpark) between now and the end of December," Farmer said. "I think there are things we can do. Whether it starts in June or whether it starts in July or August, we think we can get some things done before we start playing again next year, yes."

It remains to be seen, however, if all work in the $10 million project at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field can be completed prior to the start of the 2016 season, or if it will take two offseasons to finish.

"That's a challenge the architect already is rolling up their sleeves trying to figure out," Farmer said after formally receiving state-system affirmation Thursday for the project to proceed.

"Obviously if we can get it all done in this first offseason, let's do it. I don't think that's realistic at this point in time. … But it's a little early to be able to answer that question.

"We feel like there are some things for-sure we can do," Farmer added. "I just don't know if we can do it all in one offseason."

UL is working to raise funds to cover the project's entire cost.

That includes donation fees for naming rights to various parts of the ballpark, including the stadium itself.

It's believed the stadium name is valued at $5 million in perpetuity and that a donor already has committed the full amount, which is why work can now soon begin.

"I think there will be a lot of movement here with the fundraising in the next several months," Farmer said after also meeting with top-level program donors Thursday.

"Our goal is to have the money raised. Now, we'll just have to see how fundraising goes. But our goal is to do that. We think we can do it. … But if we have to go out and borrow a little bit of it, we can."

Naming rights from everything from the press box to coaching offices to dugouts and the bullpen also can be claimed with a donation.

"We have a whole list of preliminary naming rights. … As it gets designed," Farmer said, "I'm sure we'll come up with additional naming opportunities."

While holding a regular meeting Thursday in Baton Rouge, the UL System Board of Supervisors approved UL's request for "approval to develop and implement Tier II of the University's masterplan, including additions and renovations to" The Tigue.

UL officials heard presentations last week from three architectural companies, and according to Farmer they've selected one – the Lafayette-based firm of Abell + Crozier + Davis Architects – to move forward.

"All of them are UL grads," Farmer said of the trio.

The firm has partnered with a national company that specializes in college baseball stadiums.

An initial meeting with the local firm is scheduled next week, and Farmer, UL baseball coach Tony Robichaux and others will discuss their wish list then within the framework of what Farmer called "a hardline" $10 million budget.

"They're gonna have to design something that meets our needs, but they have to stay within the budget," Farmer said.

The program's master plan calls for the existing concrete stadium and press box to be removed for a new "state of the art of facility," with current bleacher seating down each line bridged "by infilling a new three story building that will house adequately sized spectator accommodations, additional club seating … press facilities and box suites."

Also recommended: "A new 4,500 square foot facility that will house equipment storage, athletic training, locker room facilities and a new team meeting room."

It's all expected to start with leveling the bleachers so they can eventually be bridged to the new grandstand structure.

"I think we can still get what is in that original masterplan," Farmer said. "You tear down the original cement part of the stadium … behind home plate, you rebuild it on the same level as your first- and third-base bleachers, you get new lights.

"You get a new three-story press box building which will at least be ground-floor bathrooms and concessions, kind of (UL's current softball stadium). The next floor up would be something program-related. … Then the third level would be where the press box is and the skyboxes are and the broadcast booth is."

Farmer anticipates "some kind of a grander entrance into the park, something (with) a little bit more wow-factor to it when you first walk in."

The other part of Tier II of the university athletic masterplan is major renovation and expansion at Cajun Field, the school's football stadium.

Although approval for that to proceed seemingly was granted as well Thursday, there are no plans to do so right away.

"It's probably a little bit premature," Farmer said. "Let the fundraising continue to go on. We're in the quiet phase of the campaign. Let that go a little bit farther, and then as this architect gets baseball done I'm sure we'll get started right with football."

Robichaux is thrilled to know the start of renovation really is close.

"Our two boys (Austin and Justin) played here. This is an important place for them – and all these players, and all the previous players that have played here, and, really, for the fans," he said. "They really deserve it. They have been just so good to us through the years.

"It's good to know that next week we're meeting with the architect, and the architect's on board, and now we're passing the talk-about-it phase, and we're getting to the do-it phase."

The school still hasn't kicked off a public capital campaign for the full project.

At least one part of Tier I of the masterplan – new end zone seating at Cajun Field – already is complete.

Other parts – including construction of a new athletic performance center that will house football offices and locker rooms, and renovation at the school's soccer/track facility – are well underway, with framework mostly or all complete.

Both floors of the two-story performance center are up, and both projects slated for completion sometime in September.

"They're telling me they're still on schedule," Farmer said. "I just have been extremely, extremely excited about the work I see, because they're working seven days a week."

 

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