A $6 million hospitality facility and a $13 million track and field stadium for the University of New Orleans are among the state-funded capital projects approved last month by the Louisiana legislature and Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The University will also receive $5.3 million to replace and repair roofs on a number of campus buildings. The projects will be funded through general obligation bonds and the capital outlay savings fund.
“We are extremely grateful for the advocacy of State Sen. Jimmy Harris and State Rep. Matthew Willard, as well as our entire greater New Orleans legislative delegation, and the support of the Governor’s Office,” said Interim President Jeannine O’Rourke. “These projects will enhance the student experience and further elevate the University’s stature as a true community asset.”
The new state-of-the-art hospitality facility will be the home of the renowned Lester E. Kabacoff School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration. Located next to the Homer Hitt Alumni & Visitors Center, with second-story views of Lake Pontchartrain, the facility will be used for teaching and hands-on training in the field of hospitality management. It will feature a production kitchen and demonstration lab, hotel lobby teaching space, a beverage lab, flexible classroom space, a multi-purpose dining room and an exterior patio.
UNO offers both a bachelor’s degree in hotel, restaurant and tourism administraton and a master’s degree in hospitality and tourism management.
The University has already raised $1 million in private funds for the hospitality facility. The state’s 2023-24 budget includes first-year money for the planning phase of the project, with construction expected to begin in year two.
“We are thrilled about our new hospitality facility; the Kabacoff School is well-known for its cutting-edge curriculum, and this will provide the necessary infrastructure to take the program to new heights,” said Pam Kennett-Hensel, dean of the College of Business Administration. “The hospitality industry is critically important to the state’s economy, and the Kabacoff School plays an essential role in educating leaders in the field.”
The new track and field stadium will be a transformative facility for the University’s intercollegiate athletics program, as well as an asset to be enjoyed by local K-12 schools and community members. The facility will occupy the green space on campus at the corner of Leon C. Simon Boulevard and Elysian Fields Avenue. It will feature a 9-lane track, soccer-size field, an array of field sports spaces, fieldhouse, grandstands and a press box.
It will allow the University’s NCAA Division I track and field program to host home meets, which is not currently possible. The facility will be used to host state and metro New Orleans high school meets and New Orleans Recreation Development Commission meets. Residents of the the University’s Gentilly neighborhood will also be able to use the track, thereby promoting greater levels of physical fitness in the community.
“Although we still have some work to do to bring it to life, the new Privateer Track will provide our teams with a phenomenal home base to train and compete,” said Tim Duncan, vice president for athletics and recreation. “As #NOLAsTeam, we will be proud to host events in conjunction with our neighbors at Ben Franklin High School, the new Hynes-UNO Charter School and others to continue to positively influence the Gentilly community and beyond.”
As a priority five capital outlay project with no first-year funding for design and planning included in the 2023-24 state budget, it will be up to state lawmakers in future years to dedicate funding to the track project in order for it to be built.