Cajun Field is a stadium located in the city of Lafayette, Louisiana. Nicknamed The Swamp, it is the home field of the Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette stadium is primarily used for its American football and women’s soccer athletic teams.
Cajun Field boasts 2,577 chairback seats and bleacher seating to the capacity of another 28,423, giving the stadium an official seating capacity of 31,000. In planning since at least 1967 (when a rendition was featured on the football media guide), it was built in 1970 as a replacement for McNaspy Stadium, opening on September 25, 1971 with a shutout of Santa Clara University. The stadium consists of a bowl with seating on the sidelines, with a second deck on the east sideline. One of the biggest games at the stadium was when 38,783 fans on September 14, 1996, saw the Cajuns upset 25th-ranked Texas A&M, 29-22. It was also the first victory ever for the team over a ranked opponent. The largest crowed ever at The Swamp was 41,357 fans on September 5th, 2009, when the Cajuns beat Southern University 42-19 at the 9th annual Herbert Heymann Football Classic.
Because of Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 New Orleans Bowl was played here instead of in New Orleans, with Southern Miss defeating Arkansas State, 31-19. Also the Tulane Green Wave football team used it for a home game in 2005 after being displaced by the hurricane.
In 1988, when the school was known as the University of Southwestern Louisiana, the stadium was nicknamed "The Swamp," with the notation going on stadium signage, the school yearbook and, a year later, in the 1989 official Southwestern Louisiana sports media guide. The characteristics which helped create the tradition of the swamp-referenced nickname are tied to the field’s early 1970s construction and even refer back to the original football field for what was then the Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute in the early 1900s. The university’s first football field was on the main campus adjacent to a small cypress pond, which later became Cypress Lake, also nicknamed The Swamp.
Today, Cajun Field’s surface is set two feet below sea level in a natural bowl. With the below-sea level playing surface, a total of four 60 horsepower (45 kW) pumps and a sophisticated drainage system help keep the field in solid playing condition even during the frequent south Louisiana rainstorms. The subsurface stadium requires many fans to walk down to their seats. Ragin’ Cajuns football players and their opponents enter Cajun Field through an underground tunnel from the Louisiana-Lafayette athletics complex.
The Swamp nickname also fits with the area’s geography, comprising many bayous and wetlands, including the Atchafalaya Basin and the nearby Gulf of Mexico marshlands. The National Wetlands Research Center, a renowned United States Geological Survey research facility at Louisiana-Lafayette, is located less than a half-mile away from Cajun Field.
The other Division I FBS stadium nicknamed "The Swamp," Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at the University of Florida, did not adopt the nickname until 1991 when Steve Spurrier bestowed the nickname on the stadium.
In the spring and summer of 2008, the playing field and stadium were "renewed." The playing field was resurfaced with ProGrass artificial turf. The stadium was pressure-washed and repainted. Advertisements and banners reading "University of Louisiana," "Ragin’ Cajuns," and "www.ragincajuns.com" also were installed around the black retaining wall that surrounds the field.