Paul Arrigo, president of the Baton Rouge Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he is hopeful Bayou Country Superfest will return next year as well as commit to staying for years to come as the “signature” entertainment event in the area.
Discussion about whether the popular country music festival would stay in Baton Rouge was reignited Wednesday after the Metro Council approved a measure that will allow the Visitors Bureau to receive almost $500,000 from BP recovery funds.
A portion of the grant is expected to be given to concert organizers.
Superfest producer Quint Davis has suggested the festival could leave Baton Rouge without local subsidies.
“It’s vital that the festival has support in order for the event to remain a financially viable investment, whether it’s support from the city, which has more to gain from the success of the festival than any other entity, and from corporate partners who step up to become sponsors of the event,” Davis said in May.
Davis was out of the country Thursday and unavailable.
In 2010, Bayou Country Superfest received $900,000 in subsidies — $300,000 each from the Visitor’s Bureau, the state department of tourism and the city-parish general fund.
But in December, the Metro Council voted to deny $300,000 in funding for this year’s event, primarily on the grounds that the funding came with little accountability in terms of how it would be used.
The Metro Council voted Wednesday night to allow the Visitor’s Bureau to disseminate the BP funds, after a small committee crafts a plan to determine how the money would be used.
The plan will be submitted to the lieutenant governor’s office for approval within a few weeks, Arrigo said. Before the plan can be submitted, Arrigo said he expects to have at least an informal agreement with Davis that Superfest will return to Baton Rouge.
Arrigo said it’s unclear at this point how much funding the Visitor’s Bureau will be required to put forth.
The past two years the bureau’s subsidy came from reserve funds for special projects, said Sid Jackson, visitor’s bureau finance director.
Before Superfest, the bureau’s reserve fund was close to $1 million. Now he said it’s less than $500,000, Jackson said.
“Would I like to participate in giving the concert funding? Yes. But to what extent? I can’t make that decision,” Arrigo said. “And where the money would come from and how much, I also can’t make that decision.”
The bureau’s $3.4 million budget is almost entirely funded by a 3-cent hotel and motel bed tax.
Councilman Joel Boé, who will represent the Metro Council on the committee to determine the uses of the BP funds, said he wants to ensure the money is used for other projects in addition to Superfest.
On Wednesday morning, Boé sent an email to Mayor-President Kip Holden and the Metro Council that said he would consider a city-parish subsidy for the concert in 2012, if the funds were tied to performance goals.
The plan suggests requiring a five-year commitment from Superfest to stay in the parish and requiring some of the funds be used for advertising.
Other funding would be tied to ticket sales.
He said the ideas were a draft of “something I consider to be appropriate and something that I could support.”
Arrigo said he considers the $300,000 given to Bayou Country Superfest organizers an investment from the bureau that generated a significant return for the entire parish.
Despite an estimated 12,000 person dip in ticket sales this year over last for the concert, the visitor’s bureau estimates that hotels saw higher profits this year.
Both occupancy and revenues inched upward this year for hotels in the nine-parish region over the Memorial Day concert weekend, according to data presented Thursday at the Visitors Bureau board of directors meeting.
Compared to Memorial Day weekend in 2009, before Superfest existed, hotel revenues for the 2011 weekend jumped between 53 and 183 percent for the three-day period.
“This goes beyond just the number of people who attend. There’s a certain amount of community pride that comes with a signature event like this,” Arrigo said. “And with that comes recruiting possibilities, for LSU, for business, for industry.”