The 2016 Miss USA competition will be held in Las Vegas, the pageant has announced on its website, after spending the past two years in Baton Rouge.
The 2015 pageant, held July 12 at the Baton Rouge River Center, was tainted in controversy before it aired. Former Miss Universe/Miss USA owner Donald Trump alienated pageant hosts, judges and performers with his statements that Mexico was sending criminals, rapists and drug dealers into the United States.
As Miss USA contestants and staffers explored Baton Rouge last summer, announcements came on a daily basis that judges, sponsors and hosts were dropping out of the pageant.
Visit Baton Rouge, which has worked with the city-parish and state governments to lure the pageant to Baton Rouge in the past, confirmed Tuesday that it did not put forward an incentive package for the pageant this year. Last year, the city, state and Visit Baton Rouge originally planned to give the pageant more than $500,000 to film in Baton Rouge before problems took hold.
“I had no contact with Miss USA regarding 2016,” said Paul Arrigo, Visit Baton Rouge President and CEO. Arrigo said, though, that the lack of conversation was not the result of last year’s problems.
Mayor-President Kip Holden’s spokesman Scott Dyer also said the city-parish did not offer to host the pageant again this year or offer incentives.
After last year’s pageant, both Visit Baton Rouge and the state’s Office of Tourism cut down their planned payments to the pageant. Visit Baton Rouge did not pay the pageant $75,000 of the $200,000 it pledged, while the Louisiana Office of Tourism halved its payment from $50,000 to $25,000.
The city-parish paid out its $280,000 contract in full.
The pageant also applied for tax credits through the state’s generous incentives program. In 2014, the Miss USA pageant received $1.25 million in film tax credits, based on an audit that says it spent $4.2 million in Louisiana on the 2014 pageant.
Chris Stelly, the executive director of Louisiana Entertainment, did not return messages Tuesday to answer questions about how much money the pageant received in tax credits from its 2015 production. But the Miss USA 2015 application for tax credits shows that the pageant again estimated spending $4.2 million in the state in 2015.
Trump’s statements about Mexican immigrants during a presidential campaign event sent shock waves throughout the broadcast and pageant worlds. NBC dropped its agreement to air the pageant, while a flood of people associated with the pageant severed ties.
The result was a pageant in which mostly former Miss USA contestants and winners judged and helped put on the show.
It aired on the lesser-known Reelz channel, and the pageant was live-streamed on the Miss USA website.
On Reelz, Miss USA saw its viewership tumble to an all-time low of 925,000 viewers, according to Nielsen, a leading provider of information on what consumers watch on television. The viewership last year was an 83 percent drop from 2014’s 5.6 million viewers from when the pageant in Baton Rouge aired on NBC.
After being crowned Miss USA last summer, Olivia Jordan said in a news conference that Trump did not represent the Miss USA organization as a whole.
“This organization certainly celebrates diversity, and I think that was very clear on stage tonight,” Jordan said at the time, referencing the four Hispanic contestants who made it to the 2015 pageant’s top 15. “And I look forward to being a part of this brand and a part of working forward to spread a message of love, diversity and acceptance.”
Trump sold the Miss USA/Miss Universe organization to WME/IMG in September 2015. This year’s pageant in Las Vegas will air on FOX.