By Joshua Bergeron | LSU Student
LSU's College of Human Sciences and Education is working to bring the decrepit Huey P. Long Field House back to its former glory.
But it isn't the only one.
Landmark LSU, a student organization formed in 2008, also is developing plans to renovate the facility.
The field house cost $1 million to build in 1932, according to Kinesiology Professor Chad Seifried. The pool – at 180 feet by 48 feet – is larger than a standard Olympic pool. Accounting for inflation, the entire facility would cost more than $16 million to construct today, estimates Seifried.
The Long Field House served as the student union from its creation until 1964 when the current union facility was built, but the facility continued to play a vital role in university life after 1964, according to LSU Archivist Barry Cowan.
"Every student was required to take a swim class there," Cowan said. "There was a mailroom. Ballroom dancing classes were taught there … I've heard the pool was the largest in the nation when it opened."
Traffic through the field house decreased further once LSU completed the Natatorium (an indoor swimming pool) in 1965. The Department of Kinesiology currently occupies the Long Field House, but the pool, racquetball courts, locker rooms and basketball court were closed in 2004.
Parts of the facility, especially the pool vicinity, fell into disrepair after closure, but they continue to draw public interest.
"It's quickly becoming the most photographed location on campus," said Steve Territo, associate director of Facility Maintenance. "I remember playing racquetball in the courts."
Although alumni have fond memories of the facility, hanging ceilings, broken glass and graffiti paint a different picture. Grass grows through cracks in concrete and bits of broken glass and tile cover the floors.
Previous organizations attempted to repair the pool, but efforts ultimately fizzled out.
"The Huey P Long Field House has been on Capital Outlay (a state fund to provide for long-term projects) for quite some time," said Lindsay Lindsay, dean of the College of Human Sciences and Education, said. "But because it is low on the list of priorities, it continues to get postponed. In terms of what we are doing, the College of Human Sciences and Education is looking at how the facility could be utilized best."
Tipton Associates, a Baton Rouge based architecture corporation, is working with Lindsay to develop restoration plans for the field house. Its previous projects include The Varsity Theater and LSU's Peabody Hall, which houses a portion of the College of Human Sciences and Education.
Tipton's conversations with the College of Human Sciences and Education focus on converting the closed portion of the Field House into classrooms and office space.
"There would be a 300-seat lecture hall and 150-seat lecture hall, both of which are desperately needed on this campus," Lindsay said. "The renovation will add much needed classroom space to campus."
Lindsay also wants to renovate the space occupied by the Department of Kinesiology. She projected renovation costs at approximately $20 million.
Landmark LSU, a student organization formed in 2008, is also working to clean-up the graffiti and broken glass.
Michael Finklestein, a law student at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center, founded Landmark LSU to restore historical landmarks on the school's campus, but had difficulty getting financial support. The organization is back with a single goal: restoring the Huey P Long Pool and Field House.
Landmark LSU plans to bring in commercial vendors to make the Field House self-sustainable.
"The cost of the building is going to be huge," said Landon Watts, international trade and finance senior. "We think it could be a commercially viable place for business. It's right in the heart of campus. Businesses would kill to get a space like that. Bringing in business could help offset some of the cost of maintenance."
Fellow Landmark LSU member Cody Wells, who was LSU Student Government president last year, believes the cost and effort is worth it. "We have a burden to leave our university better than we found it. I'm willing to do whatever I can do to leave LSU better."
But he agrees the effort will be significant. "This is going to have to be a grassroots effort. Student Government can help out by providing leadership and getting students involved. Some students may not have the cash to donate but they can hold fundraisers and recruit people that may be able to donate money to restoring the field house."
Both Landmark LSU and the Human Sciences and Education school leaders acknowledge the pool's cost is too great to include in renovation plans.
"Even without the pool, the cost of restoring the facility would be astronomical," Lindsay said. "The pipes and pumps for the pool are completely outdated. Making it a pool again would be a huge undertaking."
Instead of maintaining the record-setting pool, Lindsay proposed converting the space into a gathering space for students.
If converted, the area would become a bowl-shaped green space with benches, according to preliminary sketches. Construction would also include demolishing the wall facing the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and Tiger Stadium.
"Once we take down the back wall, it is really going to be a great view," Lindsay said.
One factor in converting the pool is a survey students took prior to the beginning of UREC renovations. Results of the survey indicated a preference for focusing LSU's University Recreation efforts on the eastern side of campus. Instead of adding a facility in the shadow of Tiger Stadium, students chose expand University Recreation facilities near the LSU Lakes and Mississippi River.
There are many steps before a restored Huey P. Long Field House becomes a reality.
"We are simply in a phase of figuring out how the building could be used," Lindsay said. "There's a lot more to do. We have to figure out how to raise the money and make a proposal to the campus justifying and explaining everything. We are just getting the information to make our case right now."
LSU may not be the only approval the plan needs, according to Seifried.
The Huey P Long Field House and Pool are included in the Louisiana State University National Register Historic District. Design reviews may have to be approved by the Louisiana State Division of Archaeology and Historic Preservation Office for a Certificate of Appropriateness.
Political and social barriers frequently complicate the debate to renovate or raze historic at universities, according to Seifried.
"Harvard University encountered such a challenge from the Cambridge Historical Commission when it attempted to renovate Hemenway Gymnasium," wrote Seifried in a paper examining the history of the Long Field House. "Attempting to protect the historically unique windows, the Cambridge Historical Commission rejected many architectural designs by Sasaki and Associates before final approval was given."
Seifried projected the Field House will see similar influence of historical organizations "who aim to save a campus legend that educated students and provided opportunities for recreation and social interaction."