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Facilities Master Plan: Still waiting … but closer – Farmer suggests work could begin in February

Tim Buckley, Daily Advertiser, Jan. 17, 2014

UL President E. Joseph Savoie, right, cheerleaders and Cayenne, the UL mascot, celebrate during unveiling of a depiction of UL’s planned new stadium during halftime of the team’s game against Troy University on Nov. 7. / Leslie Westbrook/The Advertiser

They staged a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony early last fall, playing to a national cable-TV audience during halftime of their Nov. 7 football win over Troy.

But no construction in earnest has started on Tier 1 of the Ragin’ Cajuns’ $115 million athletic masterplan, which includes new end-zone seating at Cajun Field, a new practice facility that will also house coaches’ offices and a lockerroom for the UL football team and a refurbished track and soccer facility.

UL athletic director Scott Farmer said he isn’t sure when work will begin, but suggested it should be soon – perhaps as early as next month.

Sometime after Tier 1 projects are under way, Farmer also said, UL will open the silent phase of a capital campaign to raise funds for Tier 2 projects.

Those include extensive further expansion at Cajun Field, home of the UL football team, and major renovation at the UL baseball team’s M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.

“We don’t actually have a date (for Tier 1 construction) at this point in time,” Farmer said last weekend. “We are still working with the contractor, and negotiating out a contract for that whole project.”

That remained the case Thursday, Farmer – who is in San Diego, attending the annual NCAA Convention – confirmed via text message.

UL’s contractor is The Lemoine Company, based in Lafayette.

“We’re very close. … There’s still some i’s to dot and t’s to cross,” Farmer said.

It sounds like a little more than fine print, however.

“Before we sign a contract we have to agree, because it’s a design build,” Farmer said. “So we have to agree to a design that they’re coming up with, and then of course that design has got to fall within the budget.”

UL has budgeted approximately $21 million for Tier 1 projects, which the UL System board already has signed off on.

That includes about $5.1 million for nearly 6,000 new end-zone seats that will be built first so fans can be accommodated when future stadium expansion work is under way.

“So we are in the process of looking at it,” Farmer said. “They’ve come forward with some different things, and we’re like, ‘Yeah, we like that; we don’t like that.’ ”

Asked if he thinks agreement can be reached and if construction can begin sometime in February of this year, Farmer said, “It’s definitely what I think can happen, yes. Absolutely.”

Farmer continues to believe seating in the south end zone at Cajun Field will be in place for the start of UL’s 2014 football home schedule.

The Cajuns are scheduled to open Aug. 30 vs. Southern at Cajun Field.

“The last time we met (prior to UL’s New Orleans Bowl win over Tulane late last month) they said they could get it done by the start of the season,” said Farmer, who added he was unsure what the cutoff date for that would be.

It remains to be seen when construction on Tier 2 projects will begin.

“The plan there is … after we get Tier 1 going our focus will shift to Tier 2,” Farmer said.

“We will have to do a major capital campaign to raise the funds for that because that’s the heart, the majority, of the whole (athletic) masterplan, and it’s going to be somewhere in the $70-plus million range.

“So we will start a capital campaign sometime very soon,” he added. “We are about to go into the silent phase.”

Farmer said that it is once under way the campaign will remain in its silent phase – essentially quiet solicitation of big-money donors – and not go public until “about 60 percent” of its goal is reached.

It’s uncertain just how long that will take.