The “New” Cajundome: Now it’s the Cajuns’ Home – From the Bird’s Nest
Last night I went to the grand "re-opening" of the Cajundome.
What would be different? How much more fan friendly would it be?
Would it be what Louisiana basketball fans had been hoping for?
I had a chance to see it during construction, but declined. I had a chance to see it yesterday during a media tour, but declined.
I wanted the full effect at once.
Upon entering, I walked around in the lobby area. Banners galore, honoring some of the Cajuns' greats, were hanging. Toney, Warner, Lamar, Flake, Payton, Grider, Long and so many more.
And I was pleased to see women's basketball was a big part of it as well. There were banners and names many fans probably don't remember from the past. Do you know who Teena Cooper is? I remember her well from the Ross Cook days. Perrott, Petrakova, Yolanda Jones..they were all in a place of honor and deservedly so.
Fans sampled the new concession items which will make this place unique not only
among schools in the Sun Belt Conference, but at any arena in America. You probably won't find so much local flair anywhere. The beer was icy cold, as promised. And, there was a remodeling of concession stands on the ground level that was sharp.
New restrooms? Yep. I'll let you see for yourself.
Upon entering the arena itself is when the change really is evident. You used to see a cavernous arena when entering. But now, you see a circular hallway as you begin heading to your seat. A chronological history of Ragin' Cajuns men's and women's basketball is on the wall for everyone to see. This program has a rich history and previously known only by word of mouth. Not any more.
After taking all of that in, it was time to head into the stands. Now, we had seen many pictures and knew the seating was all black. There is no more "second level" per se. Level one and level two have been combined. The upper level is now level two.
The rest won't be done justice in words. A new sound system, totally new lighting, an
improved video board, emergency lighting in RED, lighting emphasis on the playing surface, LOUISIANA with a big (and I mean big) fleur-de-lis in one end zone. Seats close to the court, Ragin Cajun holograms that are projected on the screen during player introductions.
And, the court. It's still 94 feet. Baskets are still ten feet off the ground. It still has a huge Ragin' Cajuns logo in the middle. But there's a silhouette of Cypress Swamp on the court, complete with a Pelican. The higher up you go, the easier it is to see it.
The joint has Cajun written all over it...figuratively and literally.
In the 30-plus years of existence, the Cajundome has hosted countless memorable events. Memories galore have been made. And it was the home of Cajuns' basketball.
But honestly, it never really felt like it.
Too bright. Too cavernous. Seats too far from the court. And, virtually nothing in the building to remind anyone basketball was played there. It's one of the reasons why you would always hear Cajun fans wish for the good old days at Blackham Coliseum. Although I never particularly liked Blackham, I understood. There were memories, good memories in that place.
Now you can see those memories and get the same goosebumps in the Cajundome. Head coach Bob Marlin has always embraced the glorious basketball past. And, he and others made sure that past is part of the Cajundome.
Those who worked so hard to get all this done have done everything in their power to get it right. And, they've succeeded. The only thing missing is the home court advantage and that's up to the fans to provide.
I got a phone call from Cajundome Director Greg Davis after the event. He asked what I thought. Here's what I told him.
The Cajundome was constructed as a multi-purpose arena which was used for basketball.
Now it's a basketball arena that has multi-purpose.
For the first time, it truly is "Dome Sweet Home."