The news that Bayou Country Superfest producers will be taking their Memorial Day weekend concert to New Orleans didn't shock officials in Baton Rouge's tourism and hotel industry, although they still expressed disappointment at the festival's departure.
Since LSU's announcement earlier this year the university wouldn't be able to host Superfest for at least the next two years due to off-season renovations at Tiger Stadium, officials said Tuesday they were prepared to see it relocate somewhere else.
"It's no question losing Bayou Country Superfest over what would traditionally be a slow weekend will certainly have a negative effect on the tourism industry," Paul Arrigo, president of Visit Baton Rouge, said shortly after the announcement was posted.
"But next year we'll have the Women's U.S. Bowling Tournament here , which will help. Also in 2017, Baton Rouge will be celebrating its 200th anniversary and we'll be doing a nationwide campaign to draw natives back here," Arrigo said.
Visit Baton Rouge officials previously reported that, between 2010 and 2015, the festival generated about $50 million in total economic impact for the area. Their figures included spending on tickets, food, retail and lodging.
East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden was more critical of the announcement, saying he spoke to producer Quint Davis on Monday and wasn't satisfied with his explanations.
"I didn't recognize the name of the source he claimed he spoke with, but he said he doesn't think people at LSU wants them back," Holden said. "I don't understand how he could draw that conclusion when they told them they were renovating the stadium. He keeps trying to shift the blame."
Holden felt Davis owed it to Baton Rouge to be "straight up and fair" to him about the handling of the festival's move to New Orleans.
"We were leading the charge, along with Visit BR, to get the event here--and it grew to be a monumental event," he said. "Tickets sales may not have been that great last year, but that should have been an indication to him to promote, promote, promote because Baton Rouge threw out the red carpet for him."
Superfest also generated tax revenue for the government entities it also received subsidies from.
In 2015, sales taxes on tickets generated approximately $200,000 for parish schools and $100,000 for streets and sewers. Festival Productions Inc., which puts on the concert, also got to hold on to approximately $200,000 in ticket revenue that would have gone into parish coffers in 2015 but was given back to the company as rebate.
The state and local tourism offices also chipped in more than $300,000 to sponsor this year's show.
But Superfest attendance has dropped for the past two years. About 100,000 people attended last Memorial Day for shows that featured Luke Bryan, Eric Church and Jason Aldean. Before the 2016 show, industry experts remarked that the country festival market has become "over-saturated."
"Our job is to do what we can to bring business to Baton Rouge and the fact that it took place over a slow weekend; we wanted to participate," Arrigo said Tuesday.
Officials in the hotel industry said Tuesday they're hoping Superfest's relocation is only temporary and that they can lure the festival back to the Capital City.
"It's something that's going to be hard to replace because most people won't come to Baton Rouge Memorial Day weekend unless there is another event that they can go to," said Ralph Ney, general manager of the Marriott Baton Rouge. "It filled a lot of hotel rooms at a higher rate because you had higher demand."
Ben Blackwell, president of the Baton Rouge Lodging Association, added, "What Superfest did was keep business in town as well as draw in out of town business."
"Yeah, we're very disappointed they are departing, but we wish them well in New Orleans," he said.