LSU goes on building spree

Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Fans linger outside the gate of LSU's Tiger Stadium on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, the day before the LSU-Alabama game. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Fans linger outside the gate of LSU's Tiger Stadium on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, the day before the LSU-Alabama game.

With the closing acts of the 2012-13 athletic year about to be played out at LSU, bats and balls and pads and cleats will be giving ground to construction cranes and concrete trucks.

Though LSU’s athletic plant is never truly in a state of completion — the state of the art in facilities being a constantly moving target — the next year and a half promises to be an exceptionally busy time.

By the end of 2014, plans call for the completion of Tiger Stadium’s latest addition, a new tennis complex, the start of a gymnastics practice facility, a home for LSU’s newest sport and more.

Here’s a look at LSU’s latest facility improvement plans:

Tiger Stadium

Work is in high gear at both ends of Tiger Stadium.

On the south side, workers are laying the foundations for what will be about a 7,500-seat addition that will include club seats, suites, an upper deck seating area, standing room only areas, and new video scoreboards in the southeast and southwest corners of the old coliseum.

The project, to be completed for the start of the 2014 season, will bring Tiger Stadium’s capacity to approximately 100,000.

At the north end, workers are installing an expanded scoreboard and sound system. Eddie Nunez, LSU’s associate athletic director for operations and project development, said the sound system will be calibrated to take into account the south stadium addition.

The scoreboard and sound system at the south end has been removed for the construction project.

Also to be completed for this season: a rebuilt walkway around the north end of the stadium to replace old and cracked concrete; new entrance gates; and the replacement of old, rusted dormitory windows on the east and west sides of the stadium.

“When we replace all the windows this summer, it’ll look like it did when it was new,” Athletic Director Joe Alleva said. “We don’t want to change the character of the stadium, just restore it.”

The south stadium construction project is part of a $100 million bond issued by the Tiger Athletic Foundation (TAF), LSU’s athletic fundraising organization. That money includes funding for the tennis and gymnastics facilities.

Tennis complex

W.T. “Dub” Robinson Tennis Stadium just north of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center has been home to the LSU tennis programs since 1976, but the lack of indoor playing facilities has been an anchor from a recruiting standpoint.

That will soon change. Work will begin late this year on a complex with 12 outdoor and six indoor tennis courts, with a target date for completion between August 2014 and January 2015.

“It’s such a big step for the programs, for recruiting,” said men’s coach Jeff Brown, a former All-Southeastern Conference singles player as a Tiger and LSU’s coach since 1998. “You have to be able to show the commitment.

“Our facility will be a big bonus.”

The tennis complex will be built across from Alex Box Stadium on Gourrier Avenue, next to the LSU Ag Center’s LaHouse facility.

According to Brown, the indoor courts building will cover about 75,000 square feet and will include players lounges, locker rooms and a satellite training room.

Brown said the program is still seeking to sell naming rights for the facility but said there has been interest from the family of the late Dub Robinson, who served as LSU’s coach for nearly three decades.

Gymnastics practice facility

Never one to mince words, LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux said her program is at a disadvantage with regard to facilities to virtually every other top-20 team in the nation.

With the addition of a practice facility, Breaux is excited about the prospects for her program.

“This not just a want,” Breaux said. “This is a need. We have built some beautiful facilities on this campus, which have enhanced the future of our other programs. That is what this will do for us.”

Gymnastics currently works out of a training hall in the Carl Maddox Field House that Breaux said is inadequate for the multiple training stations LSU needs.

Work will begin on the gymnastics facility sometime after groundbreaking on the tennis facility, Breaux said.

Alleva said it will be built on one of two parking lots between the north side of the PMAC and Robinson Tennis Stadium.

Breaux said the practice facility will allow gymnastics, which finished fifth in the NCAA Super Six last month, to compete even more successfully.

“If we finished fifth with the worst facilities (among top-20 teams), having this facility will really help our growth,” said Breaux, who said she has no plans to retire before the building is completed.

“We are so handicapped by our limitations. We’re really excited by what we’re able to offer our team and show recruits.”

Sand volleyball

LSU’s recently announced sand volleyball program will begin play in spring 2014, though just where remains a bit unclear.

Nunez said feasibility studies are underway to see if Robinson Stadium can be converted to accommodate the new sport. If not, a location will have to be found somewhere else, he said.

Meanwhile, the sand volleyball program will likely play its first season at a temporary facility, though senior associate athletic director Herb Vincent said those plans haven’t been finalized yet.

LSU coach Fran Flory will oversee both the indoor and sand volleyball programs. Sand volleyball is the first addition to LSU’s athletic program since softball in 1997.

Nutrition center

LSU is exploring plans to build a nutrition center as part of its athletics complex, Alleva said.

There is no timetable for the project, but Alleva said fundraising is underway. He said no money will be borrowed to build the nutrition center, which he estimated will cost about $9 million to $10 million.

Current plans are to build the nutrition center at LSU’s football facility, though it would serve all of the school’s student-athletes.

In addition to helping LSU’s student-athletes eat better, the nutrition center will give LSU a place to entertain recruits and their families while on unofficial visits.

Alleva said he is seeking to sell naming rights for the facility.