Tiger Stadium should be ready for Tennessee game
Monday, 09/05, 8:05 p.m.
By Jim Kleinpeter
BATON ROUGE – LSU officials are confident that all seats in Tiger Stadium’s renovated west upper deck will be available for the Sept. 24 game with Tennessee despite construction delays caused by Hurricane Katrina.
The $60 million project suffered only “minimal damage” during the hurricane but the aftermath has drawn away workers from that project and the football operations center. But Herb Vincent, LSU’s associate athletic director for internal affairs, said every ticket holder should have a seat when the No. 3 Vols come to town, unless the game is moved.
“The impact affected us not physically but more from a work force standpoint,” Vincent said. “We have all the confidence in the world that by Sept. 24 we’ll have a full house.”
That was the date originally targeted during preseason for the new capacity in the 81-year-old stadium, somewhere between 92,300 and 92,400. About 1,500-2,000 seats were not going to be ready for the first two scheduled games against North Texas and Arizona State. But the North Texas game is in the process of being rescheduled and the Arizona State game has been moved to the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., because LSU is being used as an evacuation site for medical refugees from New Orleans, which was ravaged by the storm. The possibility exists that the Tennessee game could be moved but that game is still more than two weeks away.
Gen. Ron Richard, CEO of Tiger Athletic Foundation, which is financing the project, said he was pleased that the stadium came through the actual hurricane with only some minor water damage. The day after Katrina struck, the massive cranes working on the project were back up and some of the Yates Construction workers and subcontractor crews returned to work, but many of the workers were from areas hit hardest by the storm.
“Worked slowed down and it was justifiable,” Richard said. “A lot of the subcontractors and people who work for Yates live in Mississippi, Slidell, New Orleans, Houma and Thibodaux..
“There’s been a general slowdown because some of these companies are no longer in existence and some of these people are still searching for loved ones. Some have returned and some have not. The good news is we’ve seen an increase in the work force.”
Richard said the pace has picked up and that more than half of the work force is back on the job. The final section of treads and risers has been fitted into place so from the outside the deck looks complete. Work is continuing on the club level and press box. Large sheets of visqueen seal the back of the club section where next season large glass windows will provide club members with a panoramic view to the west and the Mississippi River.
“The upper deck looks good,” Richard said. “The upper concourse has some work to be done in the restroom and concession area, and that’s all done by subcontractors. The plumbing, the electrical, the sprinkler system. . . The complexity of this is huge and to shut it down and build it up again is difficult.”
Richard said one of the restrooms in the upper concourse still needs some work.
School officials have said all along that work would continue through the season and that the project probably would not be complete until after the season. The club section will be without carpet and other finishing touches.
“We’re setting up a time schedule and relooking at it from tomorrow all the way up to the Tennessee game,” he said.
Work on the football operations center has also been delayed by the loss of workers, but the first floor is already functional. The team has moved into the locker room and the training room and weight room are up and running. Before the hurricane, coaches were scheduled to move into their second floor offices Friday, but Vincent said he wasn’t sure if that was still scheduled to happen.