Cajun Field expansion to increase economic impact of UL football team

Cajun Field expansion to increase economic impact of UL football team
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POSTED: Friday, May 30, 2014 - 4:00am

UPDATED: Friday, May 30, 2014 - 4:04am

Tiger Stadium is not the only facility that is expanding because of its impact on the economy. Cajun Field has the same effect on Lafayette, so it is getting the same kind of upgrade.

A report compiled by the Lafayette Economic Development Authority shows that University of Louisiana-Lafayette football games contributed more than $27 million to the local economy, supporting 241 jobs.

Those numbers will increase as Cajun Field undergoes a slow but dramatic expansion.

Workers are currently adding nearly 6,000 seats to the south end zone, raising capacity to around 37,000 for the 2014 season.

"The expansion, I think everyone's very excited about," said Bob Champagne, a Ragin' Cajuns fan.

Interest in the football team has been bolstered by three consecutive Sun Belt Conference titles and three straight New Orleans Bowl wins.

"How well all the teams have done, not just this year but in years past, I think it's just great for the entire community here," Champagne noted.

More seats will mean a lot more money for the school and surrounding hotels and businesses. The current addition is the first phase in a much larger renovation plan. Eventually, Cajun Field will hold roughly 62,000 fans, twice as many as it used to.

"And I think the demand's going to continue," Champagne stated. "And of course everybody gets excited when you have a winning year, but Cajun fans are excited all the time, whether we're winning or not."

The bigger stadium will help UL schedule better opponents. Boise State is one example; the Broncos are on the schedule for 2016. With a stadium that size, the quality of opponent becomes a more important factor in selling tickets.

"Really big name schools that hopefully we can compete against, and win," Champagne added.

When the last phase of construction is done, economists say it will lead to an additional 140 jobs, and another $20 million per year for the local economy. The increased economic activity would pay for the construction in just three seasons. That is another reason to Cajuns fans to be excited on fall Saturdays.

"It's not only great being a fan, it's just great being a part of this community that certainly is behind all the university does here," Champagne said. "And of course, athletics is a big part of that."

The Cajun Field construction process is part of a $115 million master plan to upgrade facilities across the athletic department.

There is no set time for when the other phases of construction on Cajun Field will begin, or when it will reach its ultimate capacity.

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