RUSTON – During halftime of Saturday’s annual T-Day spring football game, Louisiana Tech President Les Guice and Athletics Director Tommy McClelland did the dirty work.
Along with a host of dignitaries that included University administrators, donors and athletic department personnel, the group participated in the much-anticipated groundbreaking ceremony for Louisiana Tech’s south end zone facility at Joe Aillet Stadium.
And although symbolic in nature, the event kicked off the construction of the centerpiece of the University’s on-going “Quest for Excellence” campaign geared toward enhancing Louisiana Tech’s athletic facilities and putting a stronghold on its place as a top tier institution.
The shovels used to dig into the ceremonial box of dirt located on the south west corner of the stadium didn’t do much to change the landscape of the hill that has been a part of the facility since its construction in the late 1960s.
However, McClelland said the real work that could begin as early as Monday will definitely change the landscape for Louisiana Tech – both physically and figuratively.
“Facilities are the lifeblood to a college athletic department, and Louisiana Tech has benefited tremendously by the ‘Quest for Excellence’ campaign,” said McClelland. “This facility will elevate our entire athletic department and all of our programs to another level; it will be a game changer for us in so many ways. We know that this project is vitally important to our student-athletes, our student body and our fans. It has taken a lot of hard work by a lot of people to make this state-of-the-art facility a reality. For that we are thankful.”
McClelland said that construction of the 70,000-square foot facility which will close the south end of Joe Aillet Stadium is expected to begin as early as Monday with a projected operational date set for August of 2015.
Since LA Tech officials unveiled the “Quest for Excellence” capital campaign in June of 2010, the initiative has become a visible reality. More than $3 million has been invested in numerous facility renovations, additions and improvements, including the baseball locker room and ticket office, the softball stands, press box and fence, the soccer lights, the Scotty Robertson Memorial Gym court and the court, video display board and sound system in the Thomas Assembly Center.
These improvements, along with the University's strong academic and athletic reputation, solidified Louisiana Tech's invitation into Conference USA; Tech joined C-USA July 1.
Guice reiterated the importance of the facility to the University and its student body.
“Today marks a milestone, not just for our athletics program, but for our entire university,” Guice said. “In addition to serving the needs of our student athletes and coaches, this amazing facility will also be used to support co-curricular and student engagement activities throughout the campus. It was great to have so many alumni and friends join us today to witness this exciting first step in fulfilling a broad and progressive vision for Louisiana Tech athletics.”
Ruston-based Lincoln Builders was selected as the contractor for the project. Lincoln’s diverse experience includes educational, health care, religious, institutional, commercial and industrial. Established in 1962 with a vision to build a respected contracting firm committed to superior client service, Lincoln Builders holds to that vision by remaining firmly rooted in the community values.
Community Trust Bank, one of Louisiana Tech’s most loyal corporate partners, has been tremendously helpful in facilitating the purchase of the bonds issued on the project.
The three-story athletic facility will benefit all of Louisiana Tech's student-athletes as it will include a new state-of-the-art strength and conditioning complex utilized by all 16 of the University's athletic programs. The new weight room is more than twice the square footage of the existing one with double height space maximizing natural light, and it will include a field view of Joe Aillet Stadium as well as a supplement and nutrition bar.
However, the weight room is just one aspect of the $18 million-plus project. The building will also house football coaches' offices, football locker room, team and position meeting rooms, club seating and a multi-functional dining space that can be utilized for athletic and campus events.
The second story of the facility will include the football coaches' offices as well as team and position meeting rooms. The 143-seat capacity, theatre-style meeting room will include state-of-the-art sound and video equipment and will be used for team meetings as well as athletic department press conferences and other events.
The club level will include luxury premium seating options with 302 chair back seats, multi-functional dining space seating up to 360, a private dining room with field view, and a full service commercial kitchen. In addition to generating additional revenue streams for the University and athletic department, this area will be utilized for campus, student and community events.
Steve Davison has served as the chair of the Leadership Team for the project which also includes Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw and Community Trust Bank CEO Drake Mills.
“Louisiana Tech is built on the love and loyalty of its alumni, fans and our local community,” Davison said. “This facility will be built on the same as so many members of the Louisiana Tech Family have contributed to this becoming a reality. As a former student-athlete, I am excited knowing how the ‘Quest for Excellence’ and particularly this facility will benefit our current athletes and the entire student body in the very near future.”
In addition to several key initial leadership gifts from loyal supporters, the Louisiana Tech student body self-assessed a student fee that will help generate millions more towards the construction of the facility.
“This facility would not be possible without the generosity of some of our most loyal supporters, alumni and friends,” said McClelland. “And we cannot overstress the importance of the University's students, whose commitment to a quarterly fee enabled us to reach a financial level that made moving forward viable.”
The process began in the summer of 2010 when LA Tech contracted with Populous to develop initial conceptual designs for the new facility. The University then contracted with TBA Studios based out of West Monroe 18 months ago as the company took the initial designs and streamlined them to fit the University's needs.
TBA Studios, founded in 2004, has developed a reputation for using traditional architectural methods in combination with modern technologies to provide their clients with a new perspective on the built environment. Founder and CEO Tim Brandon has more than 20 years of experience in the field and has worked on projects worldwide.
McClelland noted that there will be naming recognition opportunities available in the new facility and anyone interested should contact Nate Warren at the Louisiana Tech Foundation at 318-255-7950.
The building will be the largest athletic facility project on the Tech campus since the construction of the Thomas Assembly Center in the late 1970s and early '80s.