Basketball might return to campus, End in sight for arena repairs
Jim Gazzolo, Special to the American Press
What was once the crown jewel of McNeese State’s athletic facilities, the Health and Human Performance Complex became the epicenter of damage on campus during the last year.
The $45 million, 145,000-square-foot facility, which opened in 2018, houses the basketball teams, the women’s volleyball team, a training center, classrooms and faculty offices. The arena saw a couple sellouts during its first two years. But after Hurricane Laura last August the arena was left a shell of itself.
Ankle-deep water covered the basketball court and the ceiling was full of holes. The devastation was heartbreaking to Athletic Director Heath Schroyer.
“It was a low point for me,” Schroyer said. “Standing there in the water, seeing the sky above and all the damage, it was a dark moment for me, the darkest moment. I was very emotional as I toured the building.”
At that time Schroyer questioned when or where the McNeese basketball teams would play. And he also wondered when the arena would be fixed.
“I knew we wanted to play on campus as fast as possible, but I could not have even started to guess then when that would be.”
Last season the men’s and women’s teams played 3 miles away in their former longtime home of Burton Coliseum.
“We were very thankful to have a place like Burton where we could go back to,” said Schroyer, who coached the Cowboys basketball team from 2018-2021. “We feel fortunate to have been able to have our season there and to be able to practice out there.”
But the Cowboys and Cowgirls also were looking to return home. Now there is hope that will be soon.
Schroyer said the remediation process has been completed inside the arena and the rebuilding part of the project is in full swing. He said he believes it can be completed sometime in December and that a full slate of Southland Conference games can be played there.
“I feel very confident that we will be playing our league games on campus,” he said. “I get reports every Friday from the Lemoine Company and things are looking better and better each week.”
Lemoine won the bidding for the project, with the repairs estimated at $20-$22 million.
“I think they are doing a great job and setting a great pace,” Schroyer said. “I never would have thought we could be back playing our conference games in the arena this year. When I first saw it all I didn’t know what to expect.
“We had heard 2022 season or even later. This is a great step for our rebuild.”
McNeese was able to play football, baseball and softball on campus during the spring, but there were limitations. Football still has to play day home games because of lighting issues and there is no press box. Suites are limited to the luxury boxes in the north end zone.
Cowboy Diamond at Joe Miller Ball Park still has damage to the grandstands, scoreboard and other parts of the facility, which also suffered severe flooding in a record rainfall in May.
“We still have a lot of work to do in a lot of places,” Schroyer said. “But if we can get back there by December it will be a big step.”
Athletic Director Heath Schroyer says he anticipates McNeese State’s men’s and women’s basketball teams to play this season in the school’s Health and Human Performance Complex. The arena was damaged by Hurricanes Laura and Delta last year.