BRAC, BRAF, Visit Baton Rouge Announce Joint Support on Event Venues Proposal 

Community organizations support LSU’s event plan, advocate for River Center improvements 

Baton Rouge, LA (March 11, 2024) – The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC), Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF), and Visit Baton Rouge (VBR) today announced joint support on LSU’s proposal for a new $300 million entertainment and sports center. The organizations have also vowed to work together to push for a new plan for the River Center in downtown Baton Rouge. 

Last week an ordinance was proposed to the East Baton Rouge Parish Metropolitan Council that would support the Tiger Athletic Foundation’s (TAF) development of a best-in-class arena that would serve a dual purpose of hosting sporting events for LSU and music and entertainment for the Greater Baton Rouge Area. The ordinance details that a competing facility in the region would prevent the development of a TAF project, therefore the Metro Council would agree to restrict certain live music and entertainment activities to be held or conducted on property owned by the City-Parish, including the Raising Cane’s River Center, once the LSU arena is constructed.  

Recognizing a need for a more competitive convention and meeting center in the region, the ordinance also authorizes the Mayor-President to identify strategies for developing additional convention capacity and a headquarter hotel at the River Center.  

The proposed event venue ordinance is scheduled for an East Baton Rouge Parish Metropolitan Council hearing on March 13. 

The joint endorsement between BRAC, BRAF, and VBR underscores the role this LSU arena will play in addressing the region’s need for large-scale entertainment venues and the need to reposition the River Center as a world-class convention center to maintain a competitive downtown. The current deficit in such spaces poses a challenge to the growth of live music events and conventions, impacting the vibrancy of the Baton Rouge cultural scene, in turn affecting talent attraction and retention and tourism efforts. 

According to BRAC research, the Capital Region population represents a group that’s more likely to attend major concerts and events than any other peer region: the area’s average age is lower, area young professionals have higher incomes, and the region is home to more than 60,000 college students, yet the region is underperforming in large-scale entertainment when compared to peer metros. A 2018 study conducted by SeatGeek highlighted the Baton Rouge metro as the eleventh worst region in the nation for major concerts. Comparatively, peer metros, including Tulsa (#8), Omaha (#11), Louisville (#18), and Birmingham (#22), all ranked in the top 25.  

Additionally, as competing destinations continue to invest in their convention center product, it will be critical for investment to take place in and around the River Center to maintain and enhance Baton Rouge’s competitive position as a convention/meetings destination. These conventions attract visitors who stay in town longer and spend more money at local businesses. 

Recent research conducted on the marketability of the River Center shows that challenges for meeting/event planners include electrical capacity, rigging points, loading dock conditions, storage space and limited food and beverage points of sale. Research also showed that the River Center could benefit from improvements to the look, layout and aesthetic feel both inside the facilities, in the surrounding plaza areas and downtown.  

The existing River Center is also one of very few convention centers nationally that does not benefit from an attached or adjacent headquarter hotel, which research sites as a limitation to attracting high impact, non-local events. 

“The Baton Rouge Area has a real chance at becoming a young professional talent magnet and to realize that we must take this opportunity to reimagine our entertainment landscape,” said Ann Trappey, BRAC interim president and CEO. “The proposed new LSU arena would be a historic win for our community that not only attracts talent but elevates our quality of place for current residents. Additionally, we must not wait to reimagine another vital community asset – the River Center. Together, we must push for a grander vision and detailed plan to enhance the River Center if we want our downtown to grow.” 

“This ordinance speaks to the type of collaborative planning that will propel Baton Rouge into the future,” said Chris Meyer, president and CEO of BRAF. “By coordinating activities among the venue planned on LSU’s campus with future activities at the River Center, along Nicholson Drive, and at other venues across the capital area, our city can unlock an even greater quality of life and a strengthened local economy. Baton Rouge is poised to elevate its game with such thoughtful, collaborative planning now.” 

“Coordinated investment in multiple event facilities around Baton Rouge will result in not only better utilized community assets, but also world-class, attractive venues for convention, meeting, concert and sporting event planners,” said Jill Kidder, Visit Baton Rouge president/CEO. “By working together with our community leaders and economic development partners, we will create a ‘rising tide’ for our city and the progress will benefit everyone.” 

About the Baton Rouge Area Chamber   

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) is an aggressively ambitious regional economic development organization with a bias for action. BRAC seeks to push Baton Rouge beyond the status quo, unleash its potential, and support a vibrant business community that believes the finish line does not exist. BRAC seeks to accelerate economic opportunity in the Baton Rouge Area, for everyone, through BRING IT! Baton Rouge, its five-year, regional strategic plan. Learn more about BRAC at brac.org

About the Baton Rouge Area Foundation 

Among the largest community foundations in the country, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life in greater Baton Rouge and across south Louisiana.   

The Foundation pursues its mission by serving donors to build the assets that drive initiatives and solutions, supporting local nonprofits to ensure overall impact and sustainability, engaging community leaders to develop appropriate responses to emerging opportunities and challenges, and by partnering with others to leverage collective resources and create the capacity to be a stimulus of positive regional change.  

For more information, visit BRAF.org

About Visit Baton Rouge 

Visit Baton Rouge is the designated Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for East Baton Rouge Parish, responsible for promoting and showcasing the region. Our primary mission is to increase visitation to and awareness of the Baton Rouge Area thereby enhancing economic impact. Stay up to date with the latest press releases and Baton Rouge tourism news at visitbatonrouge.com/media/press-releases. Join our social media community and follow us @visitbatonrouge for more updates. 

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