Master plan for athletics facilities at ULL unveiled

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette could start work on $115 million in new construction and improvements of its athletic facilities as early as this summer, university Athletics Director Scott Farmer said Thursday.

The projects to improve facilities for student-athletes and fans are outlined in a master plan for athletics that was developed over the past eight months to address current and future needs of all athletic programs, Farmer said. The master plan was unveiled Thursday during a news conference held at the Alumni Center.

“Our goal is to have the facilities to allow the Ragin’ Cajuns athletic programs to continue to grow and compete against the nation’s best,” Farmer said.

The plans involve major renovations to Cajun Field and development of an athletic “village” that connects the other athletic fields to create a sense of community for fans and athletics, said Nate Appleman, principal with 360 Architecture, the firm that developed the plan.

The projects were grouped into three priority levels.

Farmer said the estimated cost of the first priority projects is $20 million and involves improvements to the soccer and track facilities, a new athletics practice facility and expansion of seating and amenities on the south end of Cajun Field. The UL System Board will consider approval of those projects at its April meeting and ground could be broken on the projects this summer, Farmer said.

The expansion of seating at Cajun Field is the first step in major renovations planned for the stadium and has the potential to increase capacity to more than 60,000, Appleman said. The plan also calls for demolishing the current administrative office building for new offices to be built as part of the Cajun Field stadium renovation.

The community’s support of athletics has grown with a 34 percent increase in football ticket sales over last year and a 76 percent increase in donations to the Ragin’ Cajun Athletics Foundation, Farmer said.

A capital campaign to fund the master plan will be announced later this spring, he said.

Farmer said the athletics department is “putting together funding for the first tier” of projects and a plan is under way to fund the second tier of work. An existing fee for athletics improvements will help fund some of the work, he added.

Naming rights for some of the new projects will be a way to generate some revenue, he said.

Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel encouraged the public to support the improvements.

“If we want good, if we want great, it’s not free and it’s not cheap,” Durel said.

The improvements benefit the community, as well, university President Joseph Savoie said. The university’s Cajun Field is used for high school football jamborees and band competitions and the Cajundome attracts conventions and concerts that attract interest across the state, Savoie said.

The university’s own master plan calls for the development of university property near the athletic complex to create an “entertainment region” that will also generate revenue, he said.

“The idea is to create a destination point for the region and the state,” Savoie said.