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Football: What Lourdes naming rights acquisition means for Cajun Field stadium renovation plans

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, June 16, 2021

Since UL first unveiled its athletic facilities masterplan in 2013, university president Joseph Savoie understood the road to major renovation at Cajun Field for the football team would take time.

Other smaller scale projects, including significant renovation of UL’s baseball stadium, M.L. Tigue Moore Field at Russo Park, took precedence. Along the way, a downturn in the local oil and gas economy followed by COVID-19 slowed the process.

All the while, however, the biggest piece remained extensive work at the stadium, which held its first football game in 1971 and hasn’t had a major renovation since.

“We didn’t want to start with football, because we knew that would suck all the oxygen out of the room and we wouldn’t be able to get anything else done," Savoie told The Daily Advertiser. So we knocked out everything else so we could focus just on this.”

Since 2013, the venues in which UL’s softball, baseball, basketball, track and women’s soccer teams play have been renovated.

The path to groundbreaking for the football project got the crucial boost it needed  Tuesday when Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center used a 15-year, $15 million investment to acquire naming rights to what now will be known as Cajun Field at Our Lady of Lourdes Stadium.

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“This type of lead gift actually catapults you into doing these types of things,” UL athletic director Bryan Maggard said. “You need this as your anchor, for sure.”

Now that it has the kickstart, implications for the project are multifold.

Lourdes commitment a start

Athletic officials hope the Lourdes commitment will spur additional investment to complete the project, cost of which previously has been estimated by Maggard to be between $45-65 million.

“So the lead gift, the primary gift, is all-important, because it kind of gives other people permission to invest at that point," Savoie said. "They can’t do maybe as-large a gift, but they know it’s real, they know it’s gonna happen and they can contribute.

“So that was the plan the whole time but it was difficult finding the right partner, and we found the right partner in Lourdes.”

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UL didn’t reveal Tuesday how far along it is on fundraising, but Maggard and Savoie know $15 million from Lourdes is a good start.

“Our hope is that very soon, without committing to dates, we’ll start a design phase for this project,” Maggard said.

Fundraising hasn’t been easy.

“This gift will make it possible for us to do the design,” Savoie said, “then we’ll be working on securing the rest of the donations we need.

“We feel pretty confident about it. There are a couple of other very significant gifts that haven’t been publicly announced yet, so there’s a lot of momentum.”

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Design process key to UL timetable

Maggard didn’t specify when the three-stage design process would begin, but did say it would be “very soon.”

Once that happens, things could progress relatively fast. Still, no exact timetable for project completion has been set.

“But, projected, if we could start the design phase and … have the fortune we think we’re gonna have on the fundraising trail, 9-to-12 months of design and then start breaking ground – perfect world, projected," Maggard said.

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In the interim, Maggard said there are plans for “a little bit of a façade change on the east-side building.”

But no major work is planned for the 2021 season. Instead, the focus will be on design.

“We need to go out and sell the premium products that are involved in this – suites, loge boxes, club seats,” Maggard said. “That’s part of the revenue stream to fund this project.

“We’ve kind been in a silent phase … but we’ll get more aggressive with this that, and … we’ll get a little in the design phase, once we know exactly how many of each product we have.”