The days of port-o-potties and concession stands in sheds are over for LSU softball fans, and the era of below-ground dugouts and club seating is about to start.
Coach Yvette Girouard and members of the LSU Board of Supervisors broke ground on the new $12 million Tiger Park on Tuesday, eight years after Girouard was originally promised new facilities.
"When we walk into other facilities in the [Southeastern Conference], the kids just kind of always looked at us like, 'What's up with this?' since LSU softball holds more SEC championships than any other softball team in the conference," Girouard said. "We are not being disingenuous to our athletes any more. This is really going to happen."
Alabama and Georgia opened new facilities in 2000 and 2004, respectively. Auburn added seating, concessions and indoor batting cages to its park in 2003, and in 2004, South Carolina added covered batting and improved grounds.
The new Tiger Park, which has been a recruiting point for years, will open for the 2009 season.
Junior pitcher Dani Hofer said she anticipates playing her senior season on a new field.
"I think it's time for a new stadium," Hofer said. "It's going to help bring in a lot of fans, and a facility like this is going to make recruits want to come here."
The stadium was originally set to be ready for the 2008 season, but Hurricane Katrina delayed the project. The storm also raised the building price by 40 percent.
Trey Trahan of Trahan Architects said the company recreated the design from scratch.
"We think it made it better," Trahan said. "Sometimes in architecture if [the] budget becomes a little tighter, a lot of times it forces you to clean things up and move to a more simple palette."
Tiger Park will have 1,289 seats - including 587 chair-back seats - private suites and room for an additional 1,200 fans to stand on an outfield berm.
Team facilities will include a locker room, lounge, meeting area, training area, equipment room, indoor batting cages and umpire facilities. Concessions and television screens will be located on an open concourse, and all seats will be angled toward the field.
"Unquestionably this is the biggest accomplishment, achievement, monetary contribution to women's sports ever in the history of LSU sports," Girouard said.
Girouard said she wanted the park to reflect the architecture of older campus buildings, so she fought for accents like St. Joe's brick and arched entryways, even though they were more expensive.
Bonds were sold to cover the entire cost of Tiger Park, but Athletic Director Skip Bertman said extra money is being raised by the Tiger Athletic Foundation for post-construction additions.
"When you finish a project at $12 million or $31.4 million [the cost of the new Alex Box baseball stadium], it won't be finished," Bertman said. "There's something we didn't do that you've got to have. Softball will be like that. We're going to raise money now so that if there's something missing that wasn't there, that should be there, we'll be able to do it."
---Contact Krysten Oliphant at firstname.lastname@example.org