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Diary: UL built first ‘athletic complex’ in May 1925

Diary: UL built first ‘athletic complex’ in May 1925

Diary: UL built first ‘athletic complex’ in May 1925

Before Cajun Field, before McNaspy Stadium, there was Southwestern Stadium also known as Girard Field. It was part of a plan to build what was UL’s first athletic complex at a grand cost of $41,000.

Football games were first played behind Martin Hall where the quadrangle is now. The old Martin Hall was farther toward University Avenue (Industrial Avenue in those days) than the current one. Eventually there was a gymnasium and dining hall built about where Stephens Hall is now.

Then, in 1925, there was a drive to build a real stadium that was apparently expanded to include also a Pavilion Gymnasium ($9,000), athletic field and cinder track ($8,000), field houses for men and women ($7,000), 3,000 stadium seats ($3,000), and a concrete swimming pool ($10,000).

The school was celebrating its 25th anniversary in 1925, and President E.L. Stephens thought it a fitting time to bring its athletic facilities up to snuff.

In May 1925, he wrote to John B. Foster, sports editor of the New York Sun, "Citizens of Lafayette and Southwest Louisiana joined fifty-fifty today with the Faculty, Alumni and student body of Southwestern Louisiana Institute in presenting to this institution a fund of near fifty thousand dollars for the building of a stadium in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of its founding.

"The Institute was for many years a special technical school of secondary and junior college grade, but in the past five years has become a full fledged standard four-year college.

"Although it had little or no facilities for standard college athletics, it developed … teams in all sports that competed on equal terms with many of the most advanced and oldest colleges and universities. Its teams were State champions this year in football, baseball, and track among all colleges of its class, and its regular track team took five first places … in the junior division of the Southern Amateur Athletic Union’s track meet in New Orleans."

On Feb. 1, 1926, The Stadium Committee reported that the 80-by-126-foot Pavilion Gymnasium was complete with "the clear height over the playing space" of 19 feet, a playing floor measuring 60 by 80 feet, and seats for 1,500 to watch basketball and other games.

Old aerial photographs show that the stadium was where the Student Union, Student Union parking lot, and part of Our Lady of Wisdom chapel are now. Drainage work for it had been complete by the Feb. 1 report and a part of the cinder track around it had been finished.

The first game in the new stadium was in September 1926. SLI beat Southern Mississippi 33-6.

Originally published in the Daily Advertiser, July 1, 2007

Jim Bradshaw