Special Renovation Section: Jesuit High School
Everything was perfect at Jesuit High School’s new John Ryan Stadium, from its impeccable artificial turf to the widescreen digital scoreboard that entertains hordes of Blue Jays fans.
The school never had a place to call its own, so building a brand new sports complex was a needed step for an institution that took pride in its athletic programs. Athletic Director David Moreau said two years ago an opportunity presented itself, and the district took advantage.“We used to use municipal park for practices in football, soccer and baseball, but in 2012 we were able to secure some land not too far away,” Moreau recalled. “So we built a first-class multi-sport complex.”
First class is not an understatement. The district outfitted the stadium with artificial turf, making it better equipped to handle the torrential rainfall that’s common in this part of the country. John Ryan Stadium also includes two enclosed batting cages, a grandstand that seats more than 600 fans and a 2,800-square-foot pavilion that hosts a number of school-related events.
Spectators and the community alike have marveled at the complex since it was built on New Orleans’ northwest side, just four miles from the Superdome. School officials are proud of what they’ve built, but that hasn’t stopped them from making constant improvements.
Moreau worked with Big Signs when the stadium first opened, helping to outfit the facility with unique banners and wall padding that added a new visual element to excite student-athletes. He said the graphics, which include silhouettes of athletic competitors and the school’s logo, have gone a long way in enhancing the facility’s aesthetic appeal.
“It improves the look versus going in and just looking at a locker room or seeing mesh and vinyl covering,” Moreau said. In addition to the work on the stadium, Big Signs also created banners that hang at the Roussel Building, another athletic facility located on campus.
“The graphics add to the looks of the building, and this was really the cherry on top of the sundae.”
Moreau is in his 31st year at Jesuit High School, spending more than 20 years as the baseball coach before becoming the athletic director in 2007. The planning that goes into a project of this magnitude was somewhat of a challenge for Moreau, but it was also exciting to be part of something that would have a positive impact on athletes for years to come.
One of the obstacles was trying to build a facility that would accommodate football, soccer and baseball an unusual pairing of sports to make use of one facility. The first year the soccer team practiced at John Ryan Stadium, it won a state title. Moreau said it’s been incredibly beneficial for the football team, also giving it a place to practice.
Collaboration was crucial in making sure the district built exactly what it needed. Moreau said there was involvement from several different departments, and school officials toured facilities at the college and high school levels to try and determine what would meet their needs.
Every inch of the stadium’s field is covered in turf, including the pitching mound. Moreau and others involved with the project were concerned that dirt would result in the migration of mud across the artificial surface.
Making the process more complex, they also had to choose an infill that would best suit all the different sports using the field.
“I think we learned a lot about things we thought we would never have to learn about,” Moreau said.
The project was a learning process for everyone, and Moreau suggests that athletic directors undertaking a renovation or new construction enterprise of their own slow things down. There’s a lot to consider, and pushing the project along at a steady pace can only help in the long run.
“You’re going to have to live with it, so be thoughtful and visit as many facilities as you can and try to deal with as many people as you can regarding stadium management,” he said. It’s also essential that you lean on the vendors for assistance, and Big Signs, for example, worked closely with Moreau to make sure the athletic program was getting precisely what it wanted.
Two years have passed since Jesuit High School unveiled its crown jewel to the community. Moreau said he’s committed to keeping things fresh at John Ryan Stadium and making sure it stays in pristine condition.
There are still days when he looks out onto the field, amazed at what the school has built.
“I’m there maybe five times a week, and every time I’m excited about walking into that stadium,” Moreau said. “But even having this new facility and the upgrades, we can’t lose focus that what we want for our students is to make them better people of conscience, compassion and confidence.”