About one-third of the seats were still available for the Miss USA pageant’s main event as of Thursday afternoon, with just three days left before the event scheduled for Sunday evening at the Baton Rouge River Center.
The famed beauty pageant, which is being hosted for the second year in Baton Rouge, was a sold-out show last year when it was held in the same venue.
“The finals sold out pretty quickly last year,” said Michael Day, general manager of the Baton Rouge River Center.
The River Center’s capacity is almost 5,000 seats, Day said.
There were at least 1,600 seats still available Thursday afternoon, according to a map on Ticketmaster.com that displays seats available for purchase. Day attested that the website is accurate and up-to-date.
While there were virtually no seats available closest to the stage, tickets were still available for the vast majority of seats in the outer ring.
Jackie Shahinian, a spokeswoman for the Miss USA organization, said low ticket sales were not related to an avalanche of bad publicity associated with the pageant in recent days.
“Ticket sales may be a little lower right now because of it being midsummer/vacation time for a lot of people,” she said. “Nonetheless, we are all looking forward to an exciting and successful show for the 51 contestants and for the city of Baton Rouge.”
Last year, the pageant was held about a month earlier in the year.
Donald Trump, co-owner of the pageant organization, made disparaging comments about Mexican and Latino immigrants in his speech announcing he’s running for president of the United States. In the days that followed, Miss USA lost both NBC and Univision, a Spanish-language network, which were expected to broadcast the show to a worldwide audience.
All of the hosts and entertainers associated with the show also abandoned ship, along with some sponsors. Eventually, the event was picked up by a lesser-known network called Reelz, and three new hosts were booked. Locally, people with Cox Communications or Eatel as their cable provider can watch the show on WBRZ’s sister station WBTR.
Last year, the event garnered some of its highest television ratings in history, spotlighting Baton Rouge’s culture and food in a positive light to a worldwide audience. The event also filled hotels, drawing both contestants, their families and spectators to the city.
The economic wins from the first year are what persuaded public officials to dedicate an even higher incentive package, totaling $545,000, to secure the pageant this year.
Paul Arrigo, CEO of Visit Baton Rouge, one of the governmental agencies that provided a financial incentive to bring the pageant to Baton Rouge, said he wasn’t concerned about the lower ticket sales.
“Right now, our focus is on the contestants, their families and fans having a wonderful time in Baton Rouge and a continuation of the positive exposure our area is receiving,” he said. “I was delighted to see such a geographically diverse audience from all 50 states and outside of the U.S. at last night’s (preliminary competition).”
The preliminary competition, where the women competed to make the top 15 finals, was unaired on TV but live-streamed online. About 1,000 people went to the River Center to watch it.
Mayor-President Kip Holden didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday on ticket sales.
Day said the River Center isn’t directly affected by low ticket sales because Miss USA is the beneficiary of the ticket revenue. But he said the River Center does get to collect revenue from incidentals such as food and beverages sold during the event.
“We’re just really proud to be hosting this event,” Day said. “We’re putting on a great live show, and it’s going to be the moment of a lifetime for one of these ladies.”
Tickets available range from $75 to $250.