For UL Athletics, September Will Be Sweeeeeet! – From the Bird’s Nest
The new Athletic Performance Facility is the crown jewel of the $25 million price tag on Tier I of the Master Plan for UL Athletics. It's going to open next month. I was fortunate enough to get a tour today.
With apologies to the late Jack Buck, "I don't believe what I just saw."
We had heard this building would house a new locker room, new weight room, training room, equipment room and coaches' offices.
As someone in the media who looks at things analytically, I don't get excited very easily or throw words around lightly. But I'm going to say this without hesitation: This will be a facility that virtually every Group of Five school in America will be envious of.
The nearly 100,000 square foot, two story facility doesn't look very fancy from the outside. The powers that be decided to take the money and use it all where it belongs: To benefit the student athlete.
The second floor of the two story building will house the coaches' offices and meeting rooms. Each coach, naturally, has his own office and directly across the hall is the meeting room for the players at his position. There's a locker room for the coaches with shower facilities. And, of course, there's the corner office for head coach Mark Hudspeth that will impress recruits and their parents.
The second floor will also house the video area. If there's one part of college football that's exploded in the next decade, it's the use of video. Previously, Darren Walker and his staff had an office they shared with their equipment. The new video area is at least four or five times the size previous. And, the things they'll be able to do now will be invaluable in the recruiting wars.
The first floor will have a small lobby area with a receptionist and trophy case at the main entrance. Most people who enter will be directed to the second floor where another reception area will greet visitors and direct them to the proper office.
The rest of the first floor will make recruits, their parents and the student-athlete downright giddy.
Right now, Cajuns athletics is housed in the Cox Communications Athletic Center. The football coaching staff, the athletic offices, compliance, sports information, the weight room, the training room, the equipment room and the locker rooms are all in that building.
The building is estimated at a little under 25,000 square feet.
The first floor, which houses the training room, two locker rooms and the weight room is almost twice that size. So vast is the area for the student-athlete that sports information and the athletic offices will not be housed in the new building.
Let that sink in for a minute.
The massive weight room has offices for the strength and conditioning coaches. The training area has offices for the trainers, a taping and rehab facility and a hydrotherapy area that some NFL teams would be impressed with. The equipment room is considerably larger than what Lynn WIlliams and his staff have to work with presently.
There will be a 150 seat, theatre style auditorium where team meetings can be held, along with weekly press conferences. Visiting recruits and their families can all be addressed in comfort at one time. And the auditorium can be divided in half if necessary.
Adjacent to the locker room will be a players' lounge which is where players will relax with big screen televisions and video games.
The home locker room is huge, with three times the shower and facilities as the old room. There is locker space for 100 players. Each locker has a private, lockable space for valuables, including a charging station for their electronics while at practice. The biggest issue with a locker room is the stench of sweat and wet equipment. The new locker room has a drawer at the bottom of each to house shoes and an upper compartment to house shoulder pads. Each upper and lower area has a ventilation system which will be a drying agent as well as keeping the odors out of the locker room. The system should also greatly reduce the threat of staph. The visitors locker room has 80 lockers plus shower facilities and that room can be divided in two for high school teams that might play at Cajun Field. It would be possible for high schools to use those locker rooms while not having access to the rest of the facility.
The impressive thing is the layout wasn't done haphazardly. Everything that is placed is adjacent to something to make things easier for the student-athlete to access. Most of the design was done by Head Coach Mark Hudspeth and Athletic Director Scott Farmer.
Once the Cox Communication Center is demolished, UL players will have to walk only about 15 yards to reach the Cajun Field tunnel.
The building is expected to be ready for occupancy around the first of the month, although actual move in date is more likely around the time the Cajuns have their open date after September 12.
A wise man once said, "If you want to see what you can accomplish in the next ten years, take a look back at the last ten."
2005 - Katrina is about to hit. Director of Auxiliary Services David Walker takes over as Interim Athletic Director. He walks into the athletic office and asks the secretary to bring him a legal pad and a pen. She looks at him and isn't quite sure what to say.
"Mr. David, we don't have any legal pads. But I think I might have a pen in my purse."
And, just like that, Walker's new career began.
Ten years later: The UL athletic budget has more than doubled. There's a master plan in effect for athletic facilities and it isn't a pipe dream. The beginnings of renovation for Cajun Field have begun. The new soccer and track locker room is almost ready. Lamson Park has had a $3 million facelift with a hitting facility on the horizon. The architect plans for Tigue Moore Field are more than just an artist rendering.
So what about the next ten years?
It shouldn't take that long for Tier II and III to be built to completion. By that time, the new RCAF Executive Director and his staff should be able to not only raise that money, but also be able to perhaps double the budget again.
And, this is just a guess....but the Athletic Department will have plenty of legal pads and pens.