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LSU arena plans progress after Metro Council votes to restrict certain River Center events

4 months 11 hours 44 minutes ago Wednesday, March 13 2024 Mar 13, 2024 March 13, 2024 6:13 PM March 13, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - The Metro Council voted to approve a motion that will pave the way for the storied 'LSU arena' — a $300M entertainment structure funded by the Tiger Athletic Foundation (TAF).

The project needed the council’s support to move forward to restrict events held at the Raising Cane’s River Center for up to thirty years. Developers did not want competition. Live music and entertainment events at the River Center will be limited to no more than 3,500 attendees. The LSU arena is expected to have more than 15,000+ seats.

Also a part of the private-public partnership agreement is to build a new hotel on the River Center.

Mayor President Sharon Weston Broome said the arena is a project that will benefit all of the Baton Rouge community and keep young people drawn to Baton Rouge. She said Baton Rouge needs private-public partnerships to keep growing, and she doubts the River Center and Memorial Stadium will be hurt by the success of a new arena.

“I don’t think we want to see Baton Rouge divided and fall,” Broome said. “We do want to see is our parish grow stronger so every part of our parish thrives economically as a family.”

Before the final vote, the Metro Council opened the floor for community input.

“If Baton Rouge wants to be a talent magnet, we should not let this opportunity pass us by,” Ann Trappey, CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, said.

Community members in support of the arena referred to it as a catalytic investment in Baton Rouge.

Not everyone who spoke up was on board with the stadium.

“The reason people aren’t coming has nothing to do with a bigger stadium,” one speaker said in opposition to the motion.

Others said the vote happened too suddenly and the public wasn’t well enough informed on what the project would entail, though they weren’t necessarily opposed to the development.

Wednesday the council voted 10 to 1, with Councilmember Darryl Hurst abstaining and District 2 Metro Councilmember Chauna Banks in opposition. Since the start of the project Banks said she was not in favor of a new arena. Instead Banks said the River Center, a city controlled structure, deserved more attention. She also says the project was exclusive from other city stakeholders like Southern University. In rapid succession, she questioned developer Charles Landry on whether the arena’s proposal is legally sound.

"You have to think about the wider market. On one end we have that this is between the Greater Baton Rouge Region but all of your supporting document points to the capital region - and as you know the capital region is nine parishes but the Greater Baton Rouge region, I guess is us four?" Banks said. "I want to be on record to say what the law said in hopes of setting up a lawsuit when we approve this."

District 4 Councilmember Aaron Moak, who voted to progress arena plans, said the arena would boost the Baton Rouge economy. Moak noted that when he attends conventions and concerts in New Orleans, he spends multiple days in the city. He says Baton Rouge has the same potential.

“I don’t need a study to tell me the River Center doesn’t meet its full potential,” Councilmember Aaron Moak said. “There is always more potential.”

Developers said once the council voted, they were in a position to choose a site and start building, and the arena is about four years out.

BRAC, BRAF, Visit Baton Rouge, LSU Athletics and the Tiger Athletic Foundation have all given their endorsements as well. The common sentiment is that a new large-scale entertainment venue would be beneficial to everyone in the capital region.

“Change is hard.” Moak said “We have a chance as a council to make a generational change.”

One of the locations on their list is LSU's 250-acre golf course off Nicholson and Gourrier. The PMAC and Bernie Moore track have already been researched and vetoed for being cost prohibitive.

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