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Cajuns get ‘super’ discount on turf from ‘Dome

Cajuns get ‘super’ discount on turf from ‘Dome


University takes first step for new indoor practice facility.

Bruce Brown

Concrete evidence – 11 tractor trailer rigs of it – rolled into Lafayette on Wednesday to remind athletes and fans that Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajun athletic teams will soon have an indoor practice facility.

The caravan of rigs, furnished by Ace Transportation Inc. of Lafayette, carried roll after roll of field turf that will be used for the playing field inside the new facility.

That turf, which was purchased from the Louisiana Superdome for $30,000, will be stored in a barn behind Blackham Coliseum until the facility is near completion.

"The Superdome had a three-year agreement with the company that makes the turf," said Gerald Hebert, UL’s Athletic Development coordinator. "When that agreement was up, they wanted to sell it and we had the money.

"Tulane backed out of buying it, and the City of New Orleans couldn’t come up with the money, which for them would have included around $200,000 in installation. Normally, the turf sells for over $400,000.

"All I care about is that we got it right away. We wanted a bird in hand. There was another turf that’s going to be available next year, but we didn’t want to wait. It’s exactly what we’re in the market for. It’s the best we could get."

Hebert and UL began negotiations with the Superdome when they found out the turf would be available, and the deal was closed with new Superdome Director Glen Menard, a UL graduate.

Ground will be broken for the new practice facility in November, immediately after the Cajuns conclude their 2005 football season, with approximately six months needed to complete the project.

Bids go out in August for the facility with $3.6 million currently budgeted for its construction.

"It depends on how the bids come in," Hebert said. "We’ll decide then what to add and subtract."

Designs call for the building – measuring some 395 feet by 265 feet – to be located adjacent to Ragin’ Cajun Softball Park and the current football practice fields. Relocating one of those fields will mean the football team has two outdoor and one indoor field for drills in addition to Cajun Field.

Other programs, such as soccer, will be able to use the facility, which will also include a basketball practice area.

"We’ve done a lot with the athletic plant recently," Hebert said. "The indoor practice facility will be the crown jewel of the things we’ve done.

"We hope it continues the excitement we’re building. UL fans can see we’re improving at a rapid pace. It’s a major step forward – only the second one in Louisiana and the only one in our conference. It’s a tremendous recruiting tool that can have a domino effect."

Considering their load and the trip’s logistics, the Ace crews made good time after leaving New Orleans at 5 a.m. Wednesday. For their efforts, the drivers were treated to a meal provided by Prejean’s Restaurant, Hebert’s way of saying thanks.

"They did a tremendous job," Hebert said. "Without them, and the (escort) help of the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Department, we couldn’t have done it."

Originally published May 26, 2005