Expanded seating would allow bids for NCAA tourneys
“It’s going to be a true bowl effect.” Greg Davis, Cajundome director
LAFAYETTE — Roughly $16 million in upgrades are being eyed for the Cajundome in the largest capital improvement project at the facility in a decade.
Half of the money would go toward new seating to expand capacity at the Cajundome, with the balance used for renovations and to whittle down a long list of repairs.
“We need to do this to remain competitive in the industry,” Cajundome Director Greg Davis said.
The Cajundome Commission on Monday reviewed a tentative list of the projects and discussed plans for borrowing the money to do them.
The debt would be repaid with revenue from a local hotel-motel sales tax that has been used for smaller projects at the Cajundome on a pay-as-you-go basis, Davis said.
The commission has not approved the projects or the debt and is scheduled to revisit the issue in January.
The biggest item on the Cajundome wish list is an $8 million project to replace the telescoping seats on the floor of the arena.
Davis said the seats are 28 years old and are at the end of their useful life.
“They don’t even make parts for them anymore,” he said.
The seating project would add about 500 to the Cajundome’s capacity for concerts and 1,600 for basketball games, Operations Director Phil Ashurst said.
The new seating arrangement also would extend seating in the lower section of the Cajundome around the arena, filling the now-empty areas behind the basketball goals.
“It’s going to be a true bowl effect,” Davis said.
The new seats would push capacity at the Cajundome for basketball games above 12,000, meeting a mark that would allow the Cajundome to bid for regional NCAA basketball tournaments, Davis said.
The wish list includes plans for a new clubhouse, an area with catered food and drinks available to fans who pay a premium.
The clubhouse would be on the second level of the Cajundome in an area now occupied by business offices.
It would cost an estimated $6.7 million to relocate the offices and build the clubhouse, according to estimates presented to the commission Monday.
Other projects on the list include lighting upgrades, renovated storage space, an elevator at the adjacent Convention Center, roof maintenance and kitchen equipment.
Davis said that, assuming the commission approves the work, the Cajundome likely would be closed from May 2015 through October 2015 to allow crews to complete the work over the summer.
He said the proposed $16 million capital improvement program would be the biggest upgrade at the dome since construction of the Convention Center, which opened in 2002.
The hotel-motel tax that would be used to repay the bonded debt generates about $3.2 million a year.
About $200,000 of that tax money goes to the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission each year and about $1 million is used to pay back the money borrowed to build the Convention Center, leaving about $2 million in annual revenue that can be used for Cajundome improvements, Davis said.