Patrick Clay / Contributing Writer
METAIRIE, La. - After weeks of re-planning and re-designing, construction crews broke ground on the Al Copeland Concert Meadow stage at Lafreniere Park Friday.
The 50-foot stage, which will feature state-of-the-art acoustics, replaces the park's old concert venue that Hurricane Katrina destroyed in 2005.
'It's one of the best that i've ever seen,' said Al Copeland Jr., the Chairman of the Board of Al Copeland Investments, 'We did some investigating on stages and I think we went all out and just did the best project that we possibly could.'
'It's something that we've never had before in the park,' said Jefferson Parish District 4 Councilman Ben Zahn, 'I think it's a premiere attraction on the East Bank of Jefferson Parish.'
The stage will be used as part of the Al Copeland Foundation's initiative for cancer research, including events to help raise money for a cure. The foundation partnered with the LSU Health & Sciences Center for the same reason.
LSU HSC Chancellor Larry Hollier, who accepted a $50,000 donation check from Copeland Jr. on the Center's behalf, is appreciative of the partnership.
'This is what this enterprise and what this contribution (means) is the development of new cures for cancer, and we owe it all to the Copeland family,' Hollier said.
'That's why we have partnered with LSU Health & Sciences,' said Copeland Jr., 'and we funded them collectively over a million dollars, and we'll continue to fund them through an event we're going to do out here.'
The original plans for the stage meant to honor Copeland Sr. in a big way, featuring a planned statue of the Popeye's founder holding a box of chicken atop two power racing boats. But Copeland Jr. said they put the statue on the back burner for now, if only temporarily.
'Anytime you go into a public park and you try to improve something, there are a lot of hands in the pot and a lot of people that need to offer approvals and process, and it takes a long time,' Copeland Jr. said, 'And in this case, we were able to get one phase of it through. We'll see what the future brings.'
Copeland Jr. said the construction on the stage should be complete within 90 days.