LSU Starts $60M Upgrade of Stadium

Sat June 12, 2004 - West Edition

BATON ROUGE, LA (AP) A $60 million project to replace the west upper deck of the LSU Stadium, including a new press box and club seats, is under way and already has transformed the grounds on that side.

The day after the last home football game of the 2004 season, Nov. 21, work will begin – 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

At the peak of construction, nearly 400 workers will be on the site. Three cranes, weighing 750 and 500 tons, will chew huge sections of concrete that many Tiger football fans have called home since 1978.

“It is going to be like a ballet out there,” said Ralph Stogner, project manager. “It is going to be beautiful to watch.”

The most intense work will come during roughly 12 weeks starting in late November.

“By the end of January we should have most of the demolition done except for the cleanup,” Stogner said. “Then it will be full-bore to put it back since we have to have it ready for the first game of the 2005 season.”

The target is Sept. 3, 2005, when LSU plays North Texas. What happens if the stadium is not ready? “It’s not an option,” Stogner said.

A bond issue financed by the Tiger Athletic Foundation, a private support group, is paying for it all. The lead contractor is Yates Construction of Biloxi.

By late December, roughly half the familiar support structure on the outside of the west side of the structure will be stripped away, along with the upper deck itself.

It will be replaced with a seating area virtually identical to the East Upper Deck, which opened in 2000. The stadium’s east side has 70 suites for 1,880 fans.

The new open-seating structure on the west side will sit atop three new levels, including 3,200 club seats on two levels and parts of a third level, and a new press box.

The west upper deck now sits atop the press box, which is flanked on both sides by about 800 club seats.

The crux of the 20-month project is taking apart and rebuilding the west upper deck. It holds 8,014 of the stadium’s 91,600 seats. Capacity will grow by 500 or 600 when the work is done.

“The demolition will ripple down, and the new construction will ripple down right behind it,” Stogner said. “It is just a tad slower.”

As cranes move from south to north, vacant areas will be replaced with precast seating, said Dan Radakovich, senior associate athletic director.

“One crane will pick off a piece and be moving it out of the way while another one comes in to pick off another piece,” Stogner said.

Discarded concrete and steel will be hauled to recycling bins. Whether to preserve any of the old seats has been discussed. Seats in landmark stadiums are sometimes sold or given away.

“It has been rattled around, but the bottom line is nobody wants to come out there Sunday morning after the last game and move the seats and get out of the way of the contractor,” Stogner said.

“They will probably end up being recycled,” he said.