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Baseball: What can you buy with $10 million?

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, May 23, 2015


University of Louisiana at Lafayette baseball coach Tony Robichaux has a wish list for major renovations at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field. Ragin’ Cajuns athletic director Scott Farmer has a $10 million budget for the project.

Plans are in place for some degree of work at the 37-year-old stadium to begin this year, and to continue in earnest after the 2016 season, but it remains to be seen what is feasible and what’s not.

Farmer said recently that a general contractor has been selected — The Lemoine Company, which is Louisiana-based — and after a five-hour meeting last week it is now evaluating of what has already been proposed by the school and architects.

"We’re gonna tweak the drawings a little bit," Farmer said, "and then Lemoine’s going to go into a rough-cost estimate to make sure we’re on the same page."

Robichaux knows what he wants, though.

And he has a pecking order of priorities, which he shared in a recent four-hour meeting with reps from the architecture firm picked for the project, Lafayette-based Abell � Crozier � Davis, and its national stadium design partner, the DLR Group.

It’s a long list, topped by catering to patrons who’ve made the Sun Belt Conference program one of the country’s most ardently followed.

What did he tell them?

"No. 1: ‘Take care of the fan’ — we’ve got some great fans — ‘and reward them with trying to keep what I call ‘the heritage’ in our stadium,’ " said Robichaux, whose Cajuns rank 11th nationally in attendance with a per-game average (paid, not actual) of 3,908.

"We wanted to make sure they don’t just slap up some brick and mortar and run away and go, ‘There’s your baseball field.’ We have something here. We’ve captured something here. And we want to try to keep it."

Before last week’s meeting, Farmer was quite confident UL’s needs can be met within the budget for the project, which — along with still-to-begin major renovation and expansion at the school’s Cajun Field football stadium — is part of Tier II of a $115 million athletic facilities masterplan unveiled in 2013.

Tier I projects including an athletic performance center, new Cajun Field end zone seating and track/soccer facility renovation already are underway or complete. Lemoine also is the contractor for those.

"I don’t think the (Tigue) budget scared the architects very much at all, to be honest," Farmer said. "I think ($10 million) is enough to make it very special."

Just how many bells and whistles can be added, however, depends partly the cost of infrastructure.

"That’s where so much of your money goes first," Robichaux said.

Just how much can be done, and a timetable, won’t be known until Lemoine completes its cost analysis.

"Perhaps the next time we meet we might have a little bit more of an idea if we’re falling within the realm of the budget (and) what can we do this summer vs. next summer," Farmer said.

For now, only lighting-related work is planned for prior to 2016.

UL’s masterplan calls for the core of the existing concrete stadium to be replaced with a new "state of the art of facility," with current baseline bleachers bridged "by infilling a new three story building that will house adequately sized spectator accommodations, additional club seating … press facilities and box suites."

A 4,500-square-foot facility to house equipment storage, athletic training, locker room facilities and a new team meeting room also was recommended.

"The vision is to give a university and a baseball coach what they deserve to have," said architect Eric Crozier, a UL grad.

Crozier learned quickly after taking on the project that what happens at The Tigue means much to many program — and Robichaux — supporters.

"I always knew Coach Robichaux had a very strong and loyal fan base," he said, "but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised, and it’s exceeded all of my expectations, (by) how much feedback I’m getting from people who are loyal to him. It’s actually a beautiful thing to see."

Robichaux wants the renovated stadium to both retain its charm and respect the program’s history.

From pine trees behind the outfield to 50-50 ticket sales and kids joining players on the field on Sundays for the National Anthem, The Tigue oozes charm.

Robichaux was reminded of that when umpire-crew members working their first Tigue series talked to him recently.

"Every one of them told me … this is the best baseball they’ve seen … and the best atmosphere to play in," he said.

Robichaux wants to be certain the Cajun Cooking Club that feeds players postgame meals keeps its home down the right-field line, and that there’s still a place for fresh roasted peanuts hawked for two-plus decades by Vic The Peanut Man.

"When I cook those peanuts," 93-year-old Vic Kilchrist said, "everybody smells them."

Robichaux considers aroma as much a part of the park’s fabric as play on the field.

"The cooking inside … is important to me, because it’s one of our things we’re known for here: food," he said. "You can get nachos and popcorn anywhere. We need to be reflective of who we are."

Robichaux wants post-renovation peanuts roasted the right way, and Kilchrist — who’s worked out of a green Tuff Shed where fans enter the third-base-side grandstand — is all for that.

"We’ll find a place to do it somewhere," said Kilchrist, a World War II veteran and retired oilfield services salesman. "I don’t know where, but we will."

Right behind the fan experience for Robichaux is that of his players — past, present, future.

" ‘Reward the players’ in their locker room, where they spend a lot of their time," Robichaux said he told the architects. "And try to find a way to display your history in your locker room or in your stadium.

"A lot of the facility upgrades that have gone on around the country (are) taking the history of their program and they’re putting it on display."

Fans would appreciate it.

Current student-athletes should see it.

Recruits may be swayed by it.

"And we do have a lot of history," said Robichaux, whose Cajuns lost two games to Stanford but beat Clemson behind a ninth-inning bunt at the 2000 College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

For a while last season, for the first time in program existence, UL was ranked No. 1 in the nation.

"When we stole home at Omaha, the head groundskeeper there pulled the plate up and gave it to us before we left and signed the back of it — but we have nowhere to display it," Robichaux said. "We’ve kept the bat that (Steven) Feehan dropped the bunt down with in the Clemson game, but we don’t have anywhere to display it."

Then there are the many ex-Cajuns who’ve played at the next level, including current major-leaguers Jonathan Lucroy of the Milwaukee Brewers and Danny Farquhar of the Seattle Mariners and former major-leaguers Scott Dohmann, Paul Bako and two-time All-Stars B.J. Ryan and Ron Guidry.

"All our pro guys … we have nowhere to display it," Robichaux said. "All our former greats … we have nowhere to display it.

"We’ve got a guy (Guidry) who is in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium, on the side of Ruth and Mantle, and you walk in our stadium, and you wouldn’t know it. We have to display that. Mr. Moore (M.L. "Tigue") needs to be displayed out front.

"So," he added, "those are the things that are real important to me — to reward all the past players that grinded us out through the tough times, when we didn’t have a lot of budget and they were still winning."

Robichaux also wants to be sure there are, as planned, private suites — both indoor and perhaps outdoor.

He deems that especially important in light of a recent downturn in the oil industry, several of whose local movers and shakers are big program financial backers, and higher-education budgetary cuts.

"You not only have to build something that’s good, but that’s a revenue generator," Robichaux said.

It remains to be seen how much capacity will increase at The Tigue, which currently seats 3,755.

But Farmer does expect some expansion.

"Tony and I are on the same page that we need some more seats, but not an astronomical number of them," Farmer said.

Even after laast week’s lengthy meeting, there are numerous other unknowns. All Robichaux knows for sure: He wants to add as much as realistically possibly.

Having DLR help sort through it all should help.

"They’ve done a lot of these," Crozier said of a firm that’s worked on baseball construction/renovation projects at schools including LSU, Texas, Nebraska and Oregon. "They understand that there are politics and money – what can we do, how many people can we satisfy all at once?"

Robichaux would love to have the budget expanded if increased donations allow, but also accepts that there will be limits.

"I understand we can’t put $26 million on baseball," he said.

Even with that in mind, though, the Cajun coach wants to be sure what’s done in the next couple years addresses what’s needed not only now also later.

"This will be a one-time thing for a long time, probably," Robichaux said.

"Along the way," he added, "we’ll have what’s called a gut check. We’ll have to see what can we do for what we have."

Deep down, though, Robichaux is firm about what must be done.

"We’ve got the keep the character in the ballpark," he said. "That’s my No. 1 priority. Keep the Ragin’ Cajun in the ballpark."


Baseball stadiums in the Sun Belt Conference, arranged by current listed capacity:


Eddie Stanky Field (3,775)

Natural grass … Built in 1980 … Baseball facility/clubhouse unveiled in 1996 (built with donations from ex-players), then renovated prior to 2012 season … Indoor hitting facility opened in 2000. … Renovations including press box, stadium club, concession stands and restrooms completed in 2004-05; announced as a $2.5 million project … New infield grass costing $40,000 installed in 2013


M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field (3,755)

ProGrass Synthetic Turf System installed in 2010. … Opened in 1978. … Upgrades since 1995 include eight-foot-high aluminum outfield wall, brick backstop installed, chairbacks in box seats and grandstand, field-level boxes down the foul lines, new and enlarged bleachers down the basepaths, construction of party park behind the first-base bleachers. … New videoboard recently added. … $10 million renovation planned for 2015-16


J.J. Clements Stadium (3,000)

Natural grass … Opened in 2005


Riddle-Pace Field (2,000)

* Host to this month’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament

Artificial surface. … Park dates to 1931. … Lighting installed in 1987, infield rebuilt in 1991. … Wooden bleachers replaced with 2,000 grandstand seats, dugouts expanded, press box and two luxury suites added as part of $1.8 million renovation in 2002. … Additional phase of major complex improvements costing $4.7 million made in time for 2008 season, including locker room, coaches offices, new scoreboard, covered batting cage, new lighting and new outfield wall. … Playing surface replaced, visitors dugout widened, backstop padding replaced this year


Bobcat Ballpark (2,000)

Natural grass … Multi-million dollar construction in 2008-09 included brick exterior, ticket office, luxury suites, video scoreboard, bullpens, recessed dugouts, home dugout bathroom, covered batting cages and new press box


Warhawk Field (1,800)

Hybrid Bermuda grass … Opened in 1993 … Picnic and tailgate area opened prior to 2008 season … Renovation prior to 2011 season included locker room remodeling, press box facelift. … Field is surrounded by 3-foot brick wall


Clay Gould Park (1,600)

Hybrid Bermuda grass … Opened in 1974. … Renovations costing $3.1 million and featuring new entranceway, added seating, lighting finished prior to 2003 season. … Video board, new center grandstand seats added in 2009. … Adjacent batting facility opened in 2013


GSU Baseball Complex (1,092)

Natural grass … Dates to 1986 … New scoreboard added before 2010 season, field reconstructed in 2010, dugouts renovated in 2011/updated in 2013, locker room renovated in 2011, entrance plaza added in 2013, field reconstructed again and leveled in 2015


Tomlinson Stadium/Kell Field (1,000)

Natural grass … Opened: 1993; lights installed in 1996; new fencing, entry gates and landscaping added later


Beaver Field at Jim and Bettie Smith Stadium (1,000)

FieldTurf … Opened in 2007


Gary Hogan Field (1,000)

AstroTurf replaced with polyurethane turf in 2011. … Opened in 1998. … Complex including locker room, coaching offices added before 2001 season. … New scoreboard added in 2003. … $1.6 million renovation in 2005, including installation of Astroturf, new lightning and indoor practice facility

SOURCES: School athletic department websites, Al.com, (Florence, Alabama) TimesDaily, Troy Messenger, Sun Belt Conference


The UL baseball team currently ranks 11th nationally in average attendance at an above-capacity 3,908 per game. That’s up from 3,831 last season, when the Ragin’ Cajuns finished 58-10 and ranked 10th nationally in attendance.

1. LSU 10,726

2. Ole Miss 8,066

3. Arkansas 7,982

4. Mississippi State 7,448

5. South Carolina 7,314

6. Texas 5,517

7. Texas A&M 4,742

8. Florida State 4,346

9. Clemson 4,250

10. Nebraska 3,956

11. UL 3,908

12. TCU 3,817

13. Texas Tech 3,665

14. Virginia 3,522

15. Florida 3,502

Source: Compiled by Wichita State’s media relations department and released by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.


1978: Ballpark opens, not long after namesake Tigue Moore arranges for pine seedlings to be planted behind the outfield wall

March 31, 1979: Field dedicated in honor of the Moore Family

March 3, 1995: Moore Field officially becomes known as M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field, Tony Robichaux works first game as head coach of the Ragin’ Cajuns

1995: Beginning of upgrades including eight-foot-high aluminum outfield wall, 71-foot scoreboard, installation of brick backstop, addition of chairbacks in box seats and grandstand area, field-level boxes down the foul lines, new and enlarged bleachers down the basepaths, construction of Lourde’s Park behind the first-base bleachers

2000: The Tigue hosts an NCAA Regional the same year UL advances to the College World Series for the only time in program history

January 2010: ProGrass Synthetic Turf System installed

March 26, 2010: The Tigue hosts 1,000th game

May 2013: The Tigue hosts Sun Belt Conference Tournament for the fifth time, Daktronics videoboard costly around $500,000 goes into use

March 2013: UL unveils three-tier, $115 million athletic facilities masterplan, including renovation at The Tigue as part of Tier II

April 2014: UL System Board of Supervisors approves plan to proceed with Tier II renovations including The Tigue

May-June 2014: The Tigue hosts NCAA Regional and, for the first time, an NCAA Super Regional

2015: $10 million renovation project expected to begin, including moving of light poles

After 2016 season: Bulk of $10 million renovation at The Tigue planned


Bridge current baseline bleachers by infilling a new three-story building that will house seating, club seating, new press box, box suites.

4,500-square-feet facility to house equipment storage, athletic training, locker room facilities, new team meeting room

Make use of patios behind bleachers down the baselines, perhaps as party patios and concession areas

Preserve the park’s character and pay homage to program history, including retention of Cajun Cooking Club building