McNeese State is moving forward with plans to replace the abandoned married student housing with a new home for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. McNeese is the lone state school that does not have an oncampus facility for its basketball teams. However, there is no timetable for the project. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, July 25, 2014 11:54 AMMcNeese State is hoping that if it builds it, students will come.
In fact the school is banking on that.
With that in mind, Athletic Director Bruce Hemphill said McNeese’s plans of building an on-campus basketball arena are “moving forward quickly.”
Hemphill said the school has secured financing for the project and signed contracts with a local architect and a Kansas City company.
“I can’t give you an official start date or when the project will be completed, but it is happening, that is for sure,” Hemphill said.
He did say he hoped to be in the new facility, which will house the Health and Human Performance Department, in four years.
“That would be about right for us,” Hemphill said. “We can’t give a definite date for everything because of possible weather delays and other things that might come up.”
Randy Goodlow of Lake Charles was hired to design the building, which will be home to both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Hemphill said, while there is no final number to the seating capacity, he expects it to be about 4,000.
The teams play their home games at Burton Coliseum and the Lake Charles Civic Center. They are the only Louisiana state school that does not play on campus and one of two, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi being the other, in the Southland Conference.
Burton is located about 3 miles south of campus, while the Civic Center is about 31⁄2 miles north of campus.
“We have enjoyed our relationship with Burton and look forward to playing there the next three years, but we feel an on-campus facility is in the best interest of our school and our students,” Hemphill said.
The arena is set to be built off McNeese Street just to the north and east of the football stadium. It will be on the site the abandoned married housing occupies. Most of the gutting has been done on the inside.
“We have all been waiting to see some progress,” Hemphill said. “It will still be some time before the buildings will be knocked down.”
Work will take time as there are environmental issues to deal with inside the apartments, Hemphill said.
The school hopes the new arena, one that will be much more visible than Burton Coliseum to students and the public, will lead to renewed interest in the basketball programs.
Last year the Cowboys averaged 1,021 fans while the women drew 699, with all the conference games being doubleheaders.
“It will be tremendous for our community and campus,” said men’s head basketball coach Dave Simmons. “It will be great to have a place where we can not only showcase our program but also where we can really be at home.”
Last year the basketball teams had to work around odd practice schedules that hampered workouts. Once last year guard Kevin Hardy had to ride his bike in the rain to get to practice at Burton.
“It will be nice to always be dressing in the same locker room for practice and games,” Simmons said. “To say we have our own place where our students can take pride in and come watch will be great.
“This is a huge step for our program.”
Women’s head basketball coach Brooks Donald Williams said a new arena could lead to new followers.
“I think it would have a great effect on fan recruitment,” she said. “Any time you have something new people want to take a look at it and want to be a part of it. The fact that it is on campus and walking distance for our students can’t help but increase interest.”
Simmons said he hopes not only more fans but better players gain interest in the Cowboys thanks to the new digs.
“Kids today look for a nice facility, something new and shiny,” Simmons said. “The fact that it will be more visible, that people driving by can see cars there and see there is a game going on will help. They will want to take a look I hope.
“I really think it will spike student interest.”
Not too many students attend McNeese games of late. This could also lead to other schools coming to town for games.
“If we can get a better atmosphere going then teams would be interested,” Simmons said.
Hemphill believes the arena will also help with the university’s bottom line.
“We are looking at this as another revenue stream,” he said.
McNeese would get all the money from concessions, possible parking fees, merchandising and most importantly, advertising. Hemphill said he envisions a rotating scoreboard with advertisers on it like seen at other stadiums and arenas.
He also is counting on the arena to have suites available for purchase.
“We want it to be an intimate setting that not only the school but the rest of the area can be proud of,” Hemphill said.
And if it helps balance the books things will be that much better.
Posted By: Richard Ben Pruitt On: 7/26/2014
Title: Mardi Gras Krewes?
Will the Basketball teams get priority for the building during Mardi Gras? I am tired of the teams spending the month on the road because there are no gyms to play in with the Mardi Gras Krewes renting the buildings. McNeese should let the Basketball Teams get priority.