The Advocate: Cajundome Renovations Continue

The Advocate Article published on July 1, 2016 at TheAdvocate.com

Cajundome ‘a giant mess’ as renovations continue

BY LUKE JOHNSON  Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK

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LAFAYETTE – The interior of the Cajundome is almost unrecognizable for those who have seen an event there at some point in the arena’s 31 years, and that has made Cajundome operations manager Phil Ashurst a happy man.

”We’re right on schedule, maybe a couple days ahead on a couple items,” Ashurst said. ”The arena bowl is a very different place than people are used to seeing.”

In the place of the basketball court or ice floor is a crane that is lifting roughly one-ton sections of precast concrete into place to serve as the framework of the Cajundome’s new first level, replacing the old fold-up seating sections.

For a place that won’t re-open for business until Dec. 1, it’s alive with activity. Workers from J.B. Mouton, the construction contractor working on the project, were scattered all over the lower level completing the large-scale portions of the Cajundome facelift.

”It’s really cool, man,” Ashurst said. ”The layout, people are starting to see the visualization of how it’s going to work out. The new lower concourse area is really coming together; it’s almost structurally done.”

The front lobby is currently torn to pieces, as workers focus on details like expanding concessions and setting up new portals to the arena floor.

Wearing his hardhat around the construction area, Ashurst gave a tour of the Cajundome’s progress about noon Thursday, but he said the construction process goes on at all hours of the day.

”The front lobby is taking shape with a new layout, a whole new look,” he said. ”It’s a giant mess right now because they (demolished) everything.

Cajundome operations director Phil Ashurst talks about renovation progress at the Cajundome on Thursday in Lafayette.

I think the demo is just about done. It’s been about a month of noise – banging and concrete breaking every day. It’s been giving us all headaches.

”They’ve been doing it mostly at night because it’s been so loud. They get here at 4 p.m., and the banging starts. They go ’til midnight.”

The more aesthetic aspects of the arena are also starting to take shape.

Gone is the somewhat dingy white color that served as the backdrop to the seating area, replaced by three shades of grey.

About 60 percent of the equally dingy ”orange” chairs in the second level have also been torn up.

”The upper level seats,” Ashurst clarified. ”They’re reddish-orange, we don’t know what to call them, we call them orange because they don’t look like anything.”

The only evidence they covered the entirely upper level in the first place are the piles of frames that once held the seats in place now stacked up near the vomitories. The majority of the upper level is now stripped to bare concrete.

The new seats will be black, Ashurst said.

Ashurst said the upper-level seats will be removed in the next couple of weeks, and all the material that goes with themwill be shipped off to be reused.

”We’re storing those up, we’re packing them up to be recycled,” Ashurst said. ”All that steel and plastic is being recycled to reduce the costs and not put it into a landfill.”

The most recognizable part of the Cajundome – the domed roof, which has become an eyesore as the red paint faded to its current shabby state should start getting its facelift in the coming months.

Ashurst said he’s got about $1 million to work with to fix the roof, both from an aesthetic and functional standpoint. He anticipates work will begin on restoring the roof in mid-August and will be completed bythe time the Cajundome opens.

”We’re doing our best to get the best product that will look good the longest and will keep us water tight the longest,” Ashurst said. ”We’re looking at different materials on that.”

Renovations continue at the Cajundome on Thursday.