Cajun Field: Maggard wants 'wow effect,' function
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, June 10, 2018
UL’s original athletic facilities masterplan was introduced in March 2013.
Central to it was major renovation of Cajun Field, the school’s 46-year-old football stadium. But except for added seating and amenity areas in one end zone, the bulk of it is not done.
In fact, it’s not even begun.
The first step in that process, however, took place last Wednesday, when a committee of UL athletic department representatives, university personnel, architects and other principles in the proposed project met for the first time in what is expected to be a 6- to 8-week feasibility study of what a renovated stadium could look like and how much it would cost.
Going into the meeting, UL athletic director Bryan Maggard — who recently completed his first full school year on the job — shared with The Daily Advertiser the vision he has for the renovated stadium and the area surrounding it.
â€œI want the Cajun Field/sports park to be an entertainment destination for people â€” not necessarily just sporting events,â€ he said.
â€œSo, as we plan and build â€” or renovate existing facilities â€” weâ€™re doing it keeping mind that we need to be thinking of ways to utilize our facilities more than just six Saturdays out of the year, or whatever the case may be.
â€œSo, there will be a lot of grander thinking involved as we develop these facilities,â€ Maggard added. â€œAre there ways to make them multi-use, to where we can use (them for) more than just on football games? Are there ways to generate revenue? All that discussion and thought will be a part of this feasibility study.â€
Possible concerts. Retail shops. Even restaurants.
Nothing is decided yet, but all could be possible once renovation is complete.
As for the stadium itself, Maggard does not necessarily feel the venueâ€™s seating capacity â€” listed at 41,426 following the 2014 south-side end zone seating additions â€” needs to increase at this time.
The Cajuns athletic director did not go into a lot of specific detail.
But itâ€™s apparent the current press box/suites structure, which dates to the stadiumâ€™s 1971 opening, needs to be demolished and that a new one in some form will be built.
The original 2013 plan called for an eight-story replacement with room for a new press box and suites along with previously nonexistent athletic administration offices and a student-athlete dining area.
The seating area in the west side of the stadium currently housing the press box also needs major renovation, both to make it safer and perhaps not nearly so steep as its upper deck is now.
Part of the feasibility study, Maggard said, also will gauge the communityâ€™s reaction to premium seating â€” which involves paying an up-front fee for access to purchase tickets in seating areas that feature added amenities â€” and how that can be used to help pay for the renovation.
BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE
Itâ€™s not just the stadium itself, however, that the feasibility study will examine.
The original masterplan called for the demolition of the adjacent Cox Communications Center, which at the time housed ULâ€™s athletic administration staff, sports information department, marketing employees, football coaching offices and other athletic department personnel.
In its place, the masterplan called for the construction of a sports plaza area where fans could gather and mingle.
Before Maggardâ€™s arrival last spring, which followed the November forced exit of previous athletic director Scott Farmer, athletic administration staff moved to a temporary locale and much of the building was cleared.
After Maggard arrived, he and other staff members moved to offices at the nearby LITE Center.
To this day, however, the Cox Communications Center still stands just down a small hill from Cajun Field.
ULâ€™s football coaches, including first-year head coach Billy Napier, now have their offices in the schoolâ€™s 100,000-square-foot Donald and Janice Mosing Student-Athlete Performance Center, which opened in September 2015 as part of the masterplan.
But the well-aged Cox building â€” built in 1971, and last renovated in 2011 â€” now houses sports marketing department employees, sports information personnel and offices for UL head baseball coach Tony Robichaux and his staff, among others.
Whether it will remain in place or be bulldozed is a decision that still must be made. Also still to-be-determined: Will the sports plaza will be built or not?
â€œWe will certainly have to make a decision in this process of what we will be doing with the Cox building and what the current masterplan shows for that space,â€ Maggard said.
â€œShould that building be taken down, if we want to go that route? Do we want to keep that same design? Do we want to tweak it a little bit?
Whatever happens, Maggard wants everything that is renovated/or constructed to complement what already is in place as a result of the $115 million masterplan and other work completed shortly before it â€” including an already-renovated baseball stadium and soccer/track facility, the performance center and ULâ€™s $4.5 million Leon Moncla Indoor Practice Facility that opened in 2007 for the Cajuns football and men's basketball team.
New brick work that was part of the $18 million-plus renovation of the baseball stadium, for instance, makes M.L. â€œTigueâ€ Field at Russo Park pop as patrons enter.
â€œOne thing I want to do: I want to create a showcase for our athletic facilities,â€ Maggard said.
â€œI want to make sure, (when) youâ€™re driving in on Reinhardt (Drive), you see a beautiful track and soccer complex, you see a beautiful baseball stadium.
â€œI want people to make sure they can see a beautiful indoor practice facility and student-athlete performance center,â€ he added, â€œin addition to a very nice football stadium itself.â€
Itâ€™s a lot about looks, in other words.
No eyesores are welcome.
â€œSo itâ€™s gonna be as much about as the â€˜wowâ€™ effect as it is about functionality,â€ Maggard said. â€œItâ€™s got to be something that fits and works for us. I want to build for the future.â€
ALL ABOUT FINANCING
How long the process will take, however, remains to be seen.
Much depends on financing.
â€œWhen youâ€™re done with this particular phase of the process,â€ Maggard said with reference to the feasibility study, â€œwe should have a good idea of what the facility could look like, what it will cost.â€
Despite much talk about doing so before Maggard came on board, UL still has not unveiled a public capital campaign for stadium renovation.
How long does Maggard anticipate it will take to secure enough funds to get renovation work started?
â€œIt would be all speculative right now,â€ he said. â€œI donâ€™t know.â€
Maggard did suggest he anticipates it could be more than a year before shovels are in the ground.
Absolutely, he said.
But could it be more than two years?
I hope not,â€ Maggard said.
I certainly hope not, but, again, it just kind of depends on what comes out of this study â€” what we decide we feel like we can bite off right now and get going.
â€œBut,â€ the UL athletic director added, â€œI will say this: I want to be very aggressive with this project. I want to get it done.â€
Like so much at UL, however, it wonâ€™t happen soon.
It will take time. Much time. Much money too.
â€œThere is a process to follow,â€ Maggard said, â€œand weâ€™ll certainly follow that, having input from those that need to be around the table, and then weâ€™ll get moving on it.