Campus Improvements

Creating a modern, aesthetically appealing campus was important to enhance the image of the University, create a student-centric culture, and make the campus an inviting space for the community.

Beginning in 2017, Dr. Burckel and the executive team began working with the ACSW Architects firm to develop a master facility plan for campus development called Future Campus. With a broad, bold long-term vision, the original master plan included building a new student union that would house study and meeting spaces and a modern dining hall, improving the landscaping along Contraband Bayou to create a park-like setting, constructing a new pedestrian bridge over the bayou to connect residence halls and Student Central to the main campus, and developing a new green corridor, aptly called “Cowboy Way,” leading from Frazar Memorial Library straight into the heart of campus.

In 2018, Dr. Burckel launched the “My McNeese Branding Campaign,” a partnership with Lamar Advertising that began with the installation of a larger-than-life horse and rider mural on the west side of the Shearman Fine Arts Center facing Ryan Street. Large exterior murals and custom window coverings were added to buildings throughout campus with a priority on large spaces facing public thoroughfares.

A grant from the Lake Charles Convention and Visitor’s Bureau funded McNeese banners to be placed downtown and around the lakefront.

A massive, campus-wide project to improve and enhance landscaping was completed and a multi-year plan to clean and maintain the exteriors of all campus buildings was developed.

On August 27, 2020, Hurricane Laura would make major changes to the facility master plan.

Hurricanes Laura and Delta caused over $230 million in damages, losses and remediation work to the McNeese campus, farm, and athletic facilities. Some facilities including Farrar Hall, home to the Burton College of Education classrooms and faculty offices, Memorial Gym, post office, bookstore, and much of the Old Ranch Student Union were damaged beyond repair.

Dr. Burckel quickly developed an aggressive and unique recovery plan that gained the support of Gov. John Bel Edwards, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, the Office of Facility Planning and Control, and the Southwest Louisiana Legislative Delegation. The McNeese campus was divided into seven quadrants including four academic, two athletic, and the farm. Quadrants containing academic buildings and residence halls were given the highest priority.

The plan called for having multiple teams of architects, engineers, and contractors working simultaneously. This model had never been used before on a state project. Within 60 days, damages were assessed, engineering teams were on board and bids were awarded to contractors for the four priority quadrants.

McNeese resumed normal operations on January 2, 2021, with five academic buildings, Frazar Memorial Library, most of the residence halls and dining facilities open—a record-setting six weeks after repairs and restoration began.

With the devastation of the natural disasters also came the opportunity to escalate some campus projects that would have otherwise taken much longer to complete and to seize new opportunities.

It was time to reimagine what could be. Changes were made to the master plan resulting in a new footprint for the student union and plans for a new bookstore and fan zone, a new Student Health and Counseling Center, a new press box at Cowboy Stadium with enhanced, state-of-the-art private suites, a new police station, new facility for the McNeese Autism Program, new LED exterior lights throughout campus, and upgrades to the entire cooling and heating system.

Today, over $145 million in campus facility projects, are currently in progress and expected to be completed within the next 18-24 months including:

  • Demolition of Farrar Hall and Memorial Gym.
  • Construction of the new Student Union will begin immediately after debris from the demolition of Farrar Hall and Memorial Gym is cleared. This $32 million project will house campus dining services (including Rowdy’s Cafeteria), offices for student life and engagement, meeting and event spaces, a student lounge, and study areas.
  • New $31 million press box at Cowboy Stadium. The new facility includes 25 suites, a 1,700-square-foot sky club and an open patio-type area. The top two levels extend goal line to goal line. Football operations, media, radio, and television will be on the second level.
  • New University Bookstore and Fan Zone on Sale Road across from the tennis courts.
  • Additional parking at the Legacy Center.
  • Repairs and renovations to the President’s House.
  • New Baseball Field House at the corner of Common and Bienville streets.
  • McNeese Autism Program facility on the site of the former University Police Station on Ryan Street. The facility will house clinical spaces, classrooms, and administrative offices.
  • Converting theC. Drew Center at the corner of Ryan Street and Joe Dumars Drive to the new University Post Office.
  • Campus Exterior Lighting Project Phase II: replacing all of the old exterior lighting with LED lights that will provide brighter and better coverage of the campus at night.
  • Rebuilding hurricane damaged buildings and labs at the McNeese Farm.
  • Renovating student labs throughout academic buildings.
  • Implementing a campus-wide energy conservation program that will reduce annual expenses.

Capital Outlay Projects Underway

  • Contraband Bayou Phase II (from the Rhoden Bridge to Ryan Street)
  • Renovations and repairs to the original Shearman Fine Arts Building. (This includes: classrooms, labs, Squires Recital Hall, new flooring, lighting, acoustics, air conditioning and heating system, and fire suppression system.)
  • Burton Business Building exterior mitigation
  • Major repairs and upgrades to the Central Plant

Major Projects Completed July 1, 2017-May 1, 2024

In total, over $16 million in campus renovations, infrastructure upgrades and maintenance outside Capital Outlay Projects and Hurricane Mitigation were completed.

These projects include:

  • Renovated and modernized the Watkins Building, between Frazar Memorial Library and Kirkman Hall, for University Police operations.
  • Relocated executive and administrative offices to the SEED Center from the Burton Business Center.
  • Relocated Burton College of Education faculty and administrative offices displaced after the closure of Farrar Hall to the Burton Business Center.
  • Bulber Auditorium was repaired and reopened. Several academic labs were built or refurbished, and numerous buildings were updated with exterior cleaning and painting and interior renovations.
  • Landscaping throughout campus was restored and refreshed. New street banners, building banners, LED exterior lighting, and street signs were installed. Technology infrastructure was hardened with more cyber security initiatives in place.
  • Opened the Student Success Center on the first floor of Frazar Memorial Library.
  • Replaced turf at Cowboy Stadium.
  • Repainted and refurbished the exterior of nine buildings.
  • Created an attractive plaza and flag display area on the lawn of Kaufman Hall facing Ryan Street.
  • Reconstructed and resurfaced the Drew Hall Parking Lot.
  • Expanded facilities for departments in the College of Nursing and Health Professions and built new nursing simulation labs.

Using Public-Private Partnerships:

  • Constructed the Engineering and Computer Science Student Study Center in Drew Hall with funding from Westlake Chemical and numerous corporate and individual donors. The study lab provides an after-hours space for individual learning and group collaboration.
  • Refurbished and upgraded classrooms in the College of Business in collaboration with area business and industry partners to resemble training spaces found in businesses.
  • Acquired the JD Bank building on the corner of Ryan Street and Sale Road through a property exchange and partnered with Ochsner Health to redesign and repurpose the building for a new Student Health and Counseling Center and Ochsner CHRISTUS Urgent Care that offers after hour services to students.
  • Partnered with Second Harvest Food Bank to convert a Gayle Hall Annex Building into a community kitchen for Second Harvest staff to prepare hot, nutritious meals for area families, children, and seniors and McNeese undergraduate and graduate students in food science and dietetics receive hands-on experience in food service operations and the nutritional care process.
  • Construction of the $13 million, 24,000 square-foot McNeese LNG Center of Excellence located on Sale Road near Ryan Street will provide space for training, research, and education for the local and national liquified natural gas industry and McNeese students. Funding from a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Economic Development, commitments from private partnerships with the LNG industry, the city of Lake Charles, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, and Port of Lake Charles are funding the project.
  • Acquired property from the City of Lake Charles at the corner of Common and Bienville Streets through a property exchange for the new baseball field house.

Capital Outlay Projects Completed

  • $44 million Health and Human Performance Center (now known as the Legacy Center) opened in 2018. Men’s and women’s basketball games now played on campus. Commencement ceremonies returned to campus after 33 years and are held in the 4,000-seat arena.
  • Contraband Bayou Improvement Project Phase I from Common Street to the Richard Rhoden Bridge that connects Student Central, residence halls, and student apartments to the main campus.
  • Campus-wide ADA improvements and renovations.
  • Campus-wide elevator repairs.

Future Plans

More student housing on campus-space will become available when the new student union opens, and the Old Ranch is torn down.