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Study projects $20M impact from stadium expansion

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LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — The expansion of Cajun Field will pump $20.2 million into the local economy and create an estimated 143 jobs, according to an economic development study released this past week.

Once complete, the expansion will nearly double seating in the stadium to about 62,000.

The Advocate reported (http://bit.ly/1oC4if4) the project is part of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette's $115 million master plan for athletics.

The impact study was prepared by the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.

"That's like attracting a major industry to the area ," said Gregg Gothreaux, executive director of the economic development authority.

Gothreaux credited the university and its athletics programs for helping attract and retain businesses and young professionals.

The economic development study, funded by MidSouth Bank, is based on 2013 game attendance, university athletic finance reports and a survey of 105 football spectators conducted during the 2013 season.

In the five home games of 2013, spectators spent nearly $11.1 million on game-related expenses, the study showed.

University athletics director Scott Farmer said the study will be of value in a capital campaign to pay for portions of the master plan, including a press box and club-level seating area at the stadium.

"We want to grow. We want to grow our venues, and we want to make wise decisions on how to grow our venues," Farmer said.

As part of the renovation of Cajun Field, the eight-story press box will also have a top-story banquet room for year-round rentals.

A cafeteria and bookstore will also be housed in the stadium.

"We're trying to do almost a little community out there that can be used every day of the year," Farmer said.

The study findings are based on 85 percent stadium capacity, so there's room to improve, Gothreaux said.

"The only way to grow this is for more tailgaters to come and more fans to turn out," he said. "If we support UL, it pays big for Lafayette and Acadiana."

An expansion now underway will add about 6,000 in end-zone seats to Cajun Field's current 31,000. The work is expected to be complete in time for the Ragin' Cajuns home football opener Aug. 30 against the Southern University Jaguars.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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