Concerns Rise Over Progress on LSU Tiger Stadium Job

Sat April 16, 2005 - West Edition

BATON ROUGE, LA (AP) A little less than five months from LSU’s Sept. 3 football season opener with North Texas, the new $60-million west upper deck of Tiger Stadium is a stunted collection of concrete pillars and exposed construction material.

“We are concerned,” LSU Associate Athletic Director Herb Vincent said. “We have been concerned from the start. But we have been assured by the contractors that the west upper deck will be [usable] by the first game.”

Although LSU officials have maintained the deck would be ready by the season opener, Vincent said it is likely the finishing touches will be applied to the deck well into the season. Fans are likely to have to reach west side seats through pathways cut into the construction zone, as they did last season. And the possibility exists that some seats won’t be ready, at least for the opening game.

“We hope not,” Vincent said. “But one of the scenarios we’re facing is that part of the upper deck could be closed off. But it’s too early to know that.”

Vincent said LSU doesn’t have any contingencies now for how to cope with an incomplete west upper deck.

“But it would be remiss of us not to be ready for things like that,” Vincent said. “The number one concern is safety. If there are seats that are not ready, or if something is not approved by the fire marshal, we will err on the side of safety.”

LSU pulled down the old west upper deck, built in 1978, except for some support beams and ramps. The new upper deck will closely resemble the one built on the east side in 2000.

The major differences are the presence of a new press box and 3,200 club level seats in two levels beneath the upper deck. The east deck contains 70 luxury suites called “Tiger Dens” on two levels.

The club seats have been completely sold out for this season, Vincent said, another reason why incomplete isn’t much of an option for LSU. Season ticket holders will occupy much of the west upper deck, and are currently being contacted by the LSU Athletic Ticket Office to try to determine how closely to their old seats they can be in the new deck.

Tiger Stadium’s capacity will increase slightly from 91,600 to approximately 92,300.

Vincent said construction crews have been hampered by some weather delays. But the major holdup came when crews were driving pilings and encountered large slabs of concrete buried underground next to the stadium.

LSU officials surmise the concrete may have been lying there since the stadium was first built in 1924, or left there/ after major expansions in 1931, 1936, 1953 or 1978.