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Athletics: UL masterplan fundraising goal – $50 million

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, August 21, 2014


UL athletic director Scott Farmer speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new UL Athletics Performance Center at the Leon Moncla Indoor Practice Facility on Wednesday. (Photo: Paul Kieu/The Advertiser )

New end-zone seating at Cajun Field is in place, and final touches are being addressed before UL opens its 2014 football season Aug. 30 against Southern.

A ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony signifying the start of construction of the Ragin’ Cajuns’ new athletics performance center – which will house a new football locker room, new offices and meeting rooms for the Cajun football coaching staff, a 12,000-square foot weight room, a state-of-the-art athletic training room and a 150-seat auditorium – took place Wednesday.

Both are part of Tier 1 of UL’s three-tiered, $115 million athletic facilities masterplan, as is track/soccer facility renovation. Tier 2 projects including additional Cajun Field expansion and renovation of the M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field baseball stadium eventually will follow.

But how in the world will the Cajuns pay for it all?

While in New Orleans for last month’s Sun Belt Conference football Media Day, UL athletic director Scott Farmer explained – and offered insight as to why a capital funding-raising campaign now in its silent phase has pegged $50 million as its target goal.

A silent phase in which potential big-money donors are solicited typically precedes any large-scale capital campaign.

An outside firm, Farmer said, came up with the figure after conducting a planning study.

“They tested the market,” he said, “and that’s what they believe the data shows we can raise.

“That is just in philanthropic gifts. The stadiums that we have in the masterplan will also generate money – because you have box seats to sell. You have VIP box, luxury boxes, club levels. You have all that to sell, which will generate money to help fund the rest of it.

“So it’s not like we have to go out and raise every penny of it, then start building,” Farmer added. “We can raise some – kind of like a down payment on a house – and then use what that facility generates to help pay off the bonds for the rest of what we want to do.”

The initial $21 million Tier 1 projects already are financed by what Farmer said are “different revenue streams – seat-licensing type of money and auxiliary fee money to pay off what we’re borrowing to do Tier 1.”

That leaves $94 million needed to cover the rest of the $115 million, and if the $50 million target is reached another $44 million would be needed if the whole plan were to be done at one time.

“Coming behind the capital campaign,” Farmer said, “we’re gonna have to sell boxes, we’re gonna have to sell suite levels. And that’s annual money that comes in. We can use that to pay off whatever we have to borrow to pay off the project.”

The $50 million, however, is more of a ballpark figure, so to speak, than a firm target.

So too, for that matter, is the entire $115 million masterplan price tag.

“Don’t forget: The masterplan just gave us an idea of what each of the projects would cost,” Farmer said. “Now we have to go in and hire architects and get more specific on exactly what those (Tier 2) things cost.

“The $50 (million) – that’s just our goal,” he added. “We can be ahead of it; we may not get there. But we’re not gonna stop if we get 50. We’re gonna try to keep raising, because now is a good time to raise funds.”

Reaching $50 million, though, should ensure that all of Tier 2 is completed, suggested Farmer, who is athletic director of a program with a football team that has won three straight New Orleans Bowls, a men’s basketball team that went to last season’s NCAA Tournament, a softball team that went to last season’s Women’s College World Series and a baseball team that last season hosted an NCAA Regional and an NCAA Super Regional.

Getting there, however, won’t happen overnight.

“The silent phase (of the capital campaign) … already has kicked off. We are in the process of working that part of it right now,” Farmer said in New Orleans. “But it’s probably gonna be 12 months before a public campaign starts.”