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Phase 3 actually does increase capacity limits for UL baseball and softball

Kevin Foote, The Morning Advocate, March 3, 2021

As usual, the truth was somewhere in the middle.

When Governor John Bel Edwards pushed the state back to Phase 3 Tuesday, the roller coaster of emotion continued for members of the UL athletics department and Ragin’ Cajuns fans everywhere.

Initially, many were jumping for joy with the words “50 percent” were said after beginning baseball and softball season under a “25 percent” edict.

Then came the words “but the mask mandate and social distancing measures will still be in place.”

At that point, John Dugas, UL’s associate director of athletics for facilities and event management, lost all of that enthusiasm.

“It went from being very excited to, ‘Oh, well that really doesn’t change anything,’” Dugas said.

On Wednesday, however, the athletics department got clarification on exactly what the governor’s new edict meant and the news was an improvement over the current status.

Over 400 new baseball tickets came available because of the announcement, pushing Russo Park’s capacity from 22 to 37% at least for the next four weeks under the new proclamation.

“I wish we could get closer to 50, we’re happy about that,” Dugas said. “Every seat that we can add, that’s another fan that gets into the game. That’s what keeps us pushing on this. Without fans, it’s no fun for anyone.”

The news wasn’t as good for softball. A total of 84 new seats will be added to the grandstand and 50 more in the outfield at Lamson Park.

Like was the case in football, the reason why 25% doesn’t really mean 25% is because of the social distancing measures, which require 6 feet distancing in all directions.

Consequently, Cajun Field only operated at 18% in the fall.

Dugas explained that baseball benefits from patio and loge group seating packages of 10.

Under the new guidelines, the requirement was reduced from 6 to 3 feet from the aisles, which allows for the additional seating.

So the athletic department will reconnect with RCAF investors that didn’t get the opportunity to purchase baseball and softball tickets for the start of the season, hopefully by the start of the Thursday home softball game and the Friday home baseball game.

According to UL deputy of external operations Nico Yantko, “he tickets will get pro-rated to $110 for the remaining grandstands and bleacher seats that will come available.”

The seat licensing and annual fund, however, will not be prorated. Tickets will still be distributed in Vermilion and White packages.

If any tickets remain after RCAF offers, they will be converted to single-game tickets, but that’s considered an unlikely option.

“We’re trying to do it the right way to make sure that as many people get to soak up the diamond sports as possible this spring, compared to what could have been,” Yantko said.

UL officials understand the frustration of baseball and softball fans not allowed to attend the games.

“Trust me,” Dugas said. “We’re not just to sit by and wait and have the opportunity to get more seats and not get them.

”If they call me tomorrow and say, ‘You can add 10 more seats, were going to add 10 more seats.’ It’s about taking care of our fans and supporting our teams.”

Dugas has been serving in this role since 1994.

“We have never worked this hard as far as doing everything we can and balancing everything,” Dugas said. “We have rules to follow from the UL system, from the NCAA, from the Sun Belt Conference, from the Governor, from the Department of Health and from the State Fire Marshall’s office.

“It’s a lot to make sure we’re in compliance with everything. That’s what we’re committed to, because the last thing we need is doing something that would jeopardize our ability to have fans at all.”

Upon learning of the return to phase 3, UL baseball coach Matt Deggs was elated after Tuesday’s 7-2 in over Louisiana Tech.

"Oh, Cajun Nation would go crazy," Deggs said. "This place would be busting at the seams. They like it when we’re exciting and hit and play hard and get after it. I promise you that. This place would be rocking and rolling.