Lafayette, Cajundome Shine During LHSAA Volleyball Tournament
By now, you know the LHSAA's state volleyball tournament took place over the weekend at the Cajundome. By all accounts, the last-minute switch from the storm-damage Pontchartrain Center in Kenner to Lafayette was a rousing success. That success fulfilled a longtime dream for Lafayette tourism officials, and has them looking towards the future.
Mike Roebuck is the chief sales officer for the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission. He says LCVC had been trying to bring the tournament to Lafayette for years.
"We'd love to have this event every year if we could," Roebuck said. "We've been after this event for some time, but we never had the court system to play on this floor," Roebuck said. "Once we figured that part out and it became obvious that the Pontchartrain (Center) was not going to be available, we stepped up right away to take on the event."
Fans from near and far attended the three day event. On championship Saturday, out-of-town fans tailgated outside of Hilton Garden Inn across from the Cajundome. Some of those out-of-towners recalled when Lafayette previously hosted the state tournament.
Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon was one of them. His granddaughters play for Division V state champion Metairie Park Country Day.
"Ellie and Maggie's mother played for Sacred Heart Academy here at Comeaux High to win state championships back in the day, so it's a special, memorable occasion," Donelon said.
Donelon says playing in the Cajundome gives New Orleans-area players something extra to look forward to.
"It makes it a little more exciting," Donelon said. "We play back at home in Metairie all season long, all the time."
Local supporters showed up in droves to cheer on their teams. That's something LHSAA assistant executive director Karen Hoyt noticed on Day 1.
"It's been unbelievable," Hoyt said. "We were fortunate to have so many local teams qualify. Southside was unbelievable. Those were our two largest sessions, the two days they played."
Hoyt says the teams and fans alike loved the tournament's new venue.
"Nothing but positive things, even from the New Orleans teams," Hoyt said. "They absolutely love it here. We're very grateful to the people of Lafayette for making this happen. Ruthie Dugal and Terry Hebert went above and beyond to make it happen, and we're very thankful for them."
Roebuck echoed Hoyt's words of gratitude.
"Really I have to give a lot of credit to Ruthie Dugal and the volunteers and to Terry Hebert with Teurlings. They put us in connection with the rental for the courts. There was some negotiation and cooperation with UL because they had to adjust their women's basketball schedule for (Saturday). They were very gracious to work with us. Then really it fell into place. We followed the formula the LHSAA gave us, and everything came together real well."
"I think it's been amazing. I knew that Lafayette would support this event if we could ever have it here. I think it will only grow as we continue to put our best foot forward."
So, what's next?
Lafayette will host this year's Division II and Division IV select-school football championships and the boys' select-school basketball championships for all divisions. Roebuck tells me the city is applying to host the select softball championships this coming spring. He also says there are some things in the works in their five-year plan that could bring the state baseball championships to Lafayette.
As for the LHSAA state volleyball tournament returning to the Cajundome: Only time will tell.