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Athletics: Work Begins on UL Athletics Performance Center – photo gallery included

Megan Wyatt, The Advertiser, August 21, 2014

A groundbreaking ceremony held Wednesday celebrated the people who have helped to make the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns some of the most successful student-athletes in the nation.

Shellie Landry, softball outfielder, addressed dozens of attendees at the Athletics Performance Center groundbreaking ceremony. She shared with the crowd the difficulty of playing softball for the university while her mom battled cancer. She shared poignant moments of how Cajuns fans changed her perspective.

One fan shaved his head and sat next to her mom at a game to show support.

"It’s crazy how a fan base like y’all – who maybe didn’t know my mom, my family, or whatever – would have the support and love for my family to support her in what she was battling through," Landry said.

Click here for the photo gallery posted in The Advertiser. University of Louisiana at Lafayette Head Football Coach Mark Hudspeth spoke to dozens of attendees at the Athletic Performance Center groundbreaking ceremony. Video by Megan Wyatt, The Advertiser.

Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony brought Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation donors, university faculty and staff, student-athletes, coaches and community leaders together to celebrate the start of another piece of the UL Athletics Facilities Master Plan.

The $13.8 million Athletics Performance Center will be located adjacent to the existing Leon Moncla Indoor Practice Facility, where Wednesday’s ceremony was held.

Part of the first tier the master plan that was unveiled in March 2013, the 71,000 square foot facility will offer ample football amenities, athletics training space, an equipment room, strength and conditioning space and more.

RCAF Chairman Wayne Elmore announced during Wednesday’s ceremony that the organization raised $7.3 million during the last fiscal year that ended in June.

"Obviously, much goes into creating a winning athletic program," Elmore said. "But it takes even more to sustain it. Just because we’re here doesn’t mean we’re going to stay here."

The new performance center will be paid for through $24 million in bonds, which are also being used to pay for the expansion and renovation of Cajun Field. The RCAF committed $400,000 per year to pay the interest on the bonds.

UL Head Baseball Coach Tony Robichaux told event attendees that other schools will strive to catch up with or surpass the Cajuns.

"The building is going to be nice," Robichaux said. "But remember: The one thing they just cannot copy is our people, and that’s you."

And the people are what made Wednesday’s celebration special.

Usually a basic part of any ceremony’s beginning, even the national anthem had a local take, as it was played on an accordion by local musician Timmy Fontenot.

"If that don’t give you the frissons (chills), you might want to move," said the event’s emcee Gerald Broussard.

Although the event was held inside, the heat in the practice facility had those dressed in suit-and-tie and Cajuns gear alike fanning with event schedules to keep cool.

UL Head Football Coach Mark Hudspeth teased attendees that an hour in the heat was nothing compared to day-long practices.

"These are moments that don’t come around every day," Hudspeth told the crowd. "So soak it in. Soak up the sweat. Embrace the moment you’re in because it’s a great day in the history of this program."

Inside the Athletics Performance Center

â–  24,000 square feet of football amenities: office space for head coach, assistant coaches and administrative and support staff; meeting space with a main auditorium that seats up to 150 people and can be broken down into multiple meeting rooms; video editing suite and storage facilities that include video distribution and viewing areas for pro scouts; locker room facilities for the football team, coaching staff and visitors

â–  18,000 square feet of strength and conditioning space: multiple weight room facilities will allow more student-athletes to workout at the same time with a common nutrition station; space for agility, plyometrics and warm-ups; current basketball court attached to indoor facility will be re-purposed into a secondary weight room; cardio mezzanine will connect the two facilities, sharing space with athletic training for use rehabbing and evaluation of injuries

â–  10,000 square feet of athletic training: office space for athletic training staff, doctor’s office and exam rooms, a hydro-therapy room with dedicated space for treatment and rehabilitation

â–  5,700 square feet of equipment room: work space, offices for the full-time staff, an expanded laundry facility, issue bins and equipment storage