BOBBY ARDOIN Editor/Consulting Writer
A meeting among city and representatives from schools that play home football games at Donald Gardner Stadium will soon be scheduled to discuss the availability of the playing field during the 2024 season.
Members of the Opelousas Downtown Development District which have agreed to bond about $4.7 million to partially fund a Phase 1 project that includes redesigning the stadium with a turfed football surface and eight-lane outdoor track, have indicated there is a possibility that teams using Donald Gardner might not be able to use the facility next year.
During the October ODD meeting, District chairperson Lena Charles said teams using Donald Gardner “may need to make other arrangements,” once construction on the field and the stadium start.
Charles told ODD members that their bonding request will be presented before the State Bond Commission in November.
In addition to approving the Bond Commission decision, Charles said the ODD still needs to decide whether to accept the results of a feasibility study which will present recommendations about funding, marketing and management of Donald Gardner Stadium once it becomes a multi-purpose venue.
There could also be questions and potential delays about approving the final design of the Phase 1 project, which also includes redeveloping the stadium parking lot, if the Bond Commission approves the ODD funding proposal.
“This is a project that has been discussed for a long time and we want to get it right,” Charles added.
Originally city and ODD officials speculated that Phase 1 construction would start immediately following the conclusion of the 2023 football season.
Although teams currently using the stadium may have to alter the locations of home games next year, Charles said she is confident that the schools involved “will be happy (with the project) once it’s over.”
What The Programs Are Saying
Jerome Robinson, athletic director for the St. Landry Parish School District said on Tuesday that all the parties involved with scheduling games at Donald Gardner are set to meet soon to discuss the issue.
“We haven’t had a meeting yet, but from what I have been told, there is one scheduled soon with the representatives of the schools, the city, parks and recreation and the school district,” Robinson said.
This season Opelousas Catholic, Opelousas High and J.S. Clark Leadership Academy are using Donald Gardner for home football games.
OCS head football coach Cullen Matherne said during a separate Tuesday interview that Berchmans Academy in Grand Coteau is scheduled to play a Louisiana High School Athletic Association-sanctioned Class 1A football schedule in 2024.
When Berchmans played an eight-man football schedule in past seasons, the program used Donald Gardner for home games.
Matherne, Opelousas High head football coach and athletic director Jimmy Zachery, Jr. and Clark CEO and president Tiffanie Lewis all indicated on Tuesday that they have not been contacted about a meeting to discuss Donald Gardner accessibility for the 2024 football season.
All three school representatives added they are also unaware about possibly having to locate home games elsewhere next year due to stadium construction