Cajun Field – Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns
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The University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette, for brevity’s sake) is the second largest public university in the state of Louisiana, trailing only LSU. It was founded in 1901, but has only gone by the name of UL Lafayette since 1999. The 19,000 students attend school in the heart of Acadiana, a 22-parish area of the state whose ancestry can be linked back to the exile of the French-speaking Acadians from Nova Scotia. Lafayette is seen as the official cultural capital of Cajun Country, with its own language, music, customs and foods.
The university’s athletic teams have been known as the Ragin’ Cajuns since 1962.
The home field for the football program is Cajun Field, which opened in 1971. The 41,426-seat stadium is more popularly known as “The Swamp,” a name usually associated with the University of Florida’s football stadium. For many reasons, UL Lafayette has a more legitimate claim, as 1) it is located two feet below sea level, 2) the geography of the area around Lafayette is dominated by bayous, wetlands and swamps, and 3) it is located less than 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Due to an often wet climate, the school installed Pro Grass synthetic turf to avoid the field becoming a quagmire. The Ragin’ Cajuns are members of the Sun Belt Conference, and also have a history of scheduling top-20 teams for their non-conference games.
Food & Beverage 5
If the team name did not give it away, the concessions menu at Cajun Field will make it clear you are in Cajun country. Of course, typical stadium food is available, but here it is with a decidedly Cajun twist. Among the items on the menu at Cajun Field are jambalaya ($8), Cajun crab patty burgers ($10), Cajun dogs and po’boy sandwiches ($9). Be sure to try the “Swamp Thing,” a double po’boy with shrimp, boudin balls, fried green tomatoes and topped with crawfish cheese sauce! ($12). These delicacies can be found along Restaurant Row at Cajun Field in booths such as the Ragin’ Cajun Kitchen, Minus 40 (ice cream and other frozen treats) and The Diner. Non Cajun-twist foods include pretzels ($4), popcorn ($3), nachos ($4), sodas ($4) and bottled water ($3). Because Cajun Field is not physically located on the university campus, you are able to enjoy adult beverages on the bayou. Beer ($7), red and white wines ($9) are available, as are margaritas ($8). Daiquiris include such flavors as Ragin’ Cajun Strawberry Lemonade, Cajun Colada, and the Swamprita.
The area’s obsession for foods that are hot and spicy even carries over the to the school mascot, a hot pepper known as Cayenne.
After experiencing Cajun tailgating and the Ragin’ March Parade, it’s time to make your way into Cajun Field. The stadium is built as a seating bowl, so entry is at the top of the seating area. (There is an upper deck on the west side of the stadium.) For the most part, there is bleacher seating, but there are 2,577 chair back seats at the base of the west stands, At the south end of the field, you will find the very popular Restaurant Row food concessions, while the north end is open and features a grassy embankment which provides general admission seating (seating meaning a beach towel or blanket to sit on). This area also features a huge matrix board featuring HD graphics and a continuing stream of game-related information. Cajun Field played a major role in Louisiana football after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. With the Superdome out of commission, UL Lafayette hosted some Tulane games and the New Orleans Bowl. The Saints also used it as a practice facility during their season on the road.
The city of Lafayette revels in its title as the Capital City of Acadiana. It is apparent in the diversity of the population, which includes persons of Cajun, Creole and French heritage. The city also holds the title of “Happiest City” (Wall Street Journal Market Watch) and “Tastiest Town” (Southern Living magazine). These are in recognition of the Cajun creed of joie de vivre (joy in life) and the wonderful Cajun and seafood cuisine available in local restaurants. Among the restaurants you will want to check out are the Bon Temps Grill, Pop’s Poboys, Broaddus Burgers, and for a sugar fix, Cajun Market Donut Company. Lafayette also has some great nightlife. The famous Blue Dog Café originated here, and other local favorites include the Jefferson Street Pub and Don’s Seafood. The nearest hotels to Cajun Field are the Hilton Garden Inn (across the street), the Best Western and the Days Inn Lafayette-University A visit to Lafayette would not be complete without learning about the Acadian way of life. Two “must-sees” on the cultural front are the Acadian Memorial and the Acadian Village, a re-creation of Acadian life in the 1880s. The city also has murals on many of its downtown buildings depicting Cajun lore. If your football trip to Lafayette falls on the second weekend in October, you can take part in the citywide Festivals Acadians et Creoles. The merchants of Lafayette love to share their way of life with visitors — just beware, you’ll often see a sign in local stores where you will be encouraged to “Bayou some stuff” while you are in town.
Fans in Cajun Country see football games as a fall highlight, a family reunion and a reason to party all rolled up into one. Cajun Field is a five-time leader in the Sun Belt Conference in football game attendance. The fan experience starts long before the kickoff, as the Ragin’ Cajuns have been recognized by ESPN.com as one of the top tailgate experiences. The fans are extremely friendly, and they will probably invite you to join them for a drink, some gumbo, jambalaya or grilled rabbit or gator. Once the game gets underway, they are all business, and show their support through standing much of the game, cheering very loudly and boisterously singing the fight song and ringing the Victory Bell after each Cajun touchdown. These fans are used to seeing well-played football in “The Swamp,” as the team has a .600 winning percentage for home games. A stunning 48 players have gone on from this relatively small school to play in the NFL. Some of the more notable football alums are Jake Delhomme, Rafael Septien, Charles Tillman and Brian Stokley.
One of the ways Lafayette has been able to maintain its strong Cajun culture is its relatively isolated location in southwestern Louisiana. Getting there requires traveling some distance. It is located 137 miles from New Orleans, and 215 miles from both Houston and Shreveport. There is an airport in Lafayette, but fares are extremely expensive. It is much more economical to fly in through New Orleans and make the two-hour drive. Once you arrive in Lafayette, parking can be an issue, as the stadium is located 1.5 miles from the campus in UL Lafayette’s Athletic complex, which requires football pass parking.. Your best bet is to park in one of the designated lots on campus and take one of the free shuttles over to the game.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets are $26 for reserved seating or $21 for General Admission, which includes the embankment in the northern end of Cajun Field. These prices reflect purchases made before the day of the game. The concession prices are quite reasonable, and lodging in the Lafayette area can run from $90 to $200 on a home game weekend.
Residents of Louisiana are well known for their ability to put on a parade (think Mardi Gras). UL Lafayette is no different, as they hold a Ragin’ March Parade one hour prior to the game, featuring the Pride of Acadiana band. The UL Lafayette campus actually has an on-campus swamp, complete with alligators and other animals native to a wetlands habitat.
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