ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY PAM BORDELON -- Louisiana's state bird -- the brown pelican, is featured in this medallion above the Cane Land Distilling Tasting Room bar.

Pam Bordelon

Cane Land Distilling has reached a deal to put its name on a new stage set-up at the Raising Cane’s River Center.

The new stage, which seats up to 3,059 people, is semi-permanent on the arena floor and will temporarily replace the River Center Theater for the Performing Arts. The theater, which seats a maximum of 1,900 people, will undergo an $18.1 million renovation that will close the space from July 1 to February 2020.

Under the two-year contract, Cane Land will pay $2,500 to sponsor each event, as long as the performer or client doesn’t have a problem with being associated with a liquor manufacturer, said Darryl Gissel, chief administrative officer for the city-parish. There’s no cap on how many events Cane Land could sponsor.

Gissel said the sponsorship will help reduce the cost of putting on events in the main arena. While it normally costs $7,500 to rent the theater, renting the whole Raising Cane’s River Center arena is about $14,000. “This will help us reduce the costs so we don’t lose events,” he said.

Michael Day, general manager of the River Center, said the Cane Land Distilling Stage will be set up long-term, even after the performing arts theater is re-opened. “I think this is a pocket for shows that we don’t have here,” he said. “This is a great new set-up for smaller concerts.”

The first event on the Cane Land Distilling Stage will be March 25, when Get the Led Out, a Led Zeppelin tribute act comes to town. A Whitney Houston tribute show will be held on the stage in July, Day said.

The new agreement also allows Cane Land spirits to be sold in designated areas at the River Center, including its premium rums, vodka and whisky. This will only be for events where the Cane Land stage is set up.

Walter Tharp, Cane Land’s founder, said he hopes the sponsorship will lead people to stop by Cane Land for a drink before or after River Center events. Cane Land is at 760 St. Phillip St., just a few hundred yards from the arena.

“Being neighbors is a huge advantage for us,” he said. “We see this as a synergy that works in our favor.”

Tharp said he’s been negotiating a sponsorship with the River Center for about a year. He said the agreement will create opportunities to promote Cane Land throughout the facility.

“To be associated with Louisiana's flagship restaurant, Raising Cane's, as well as the premier entertainment venue in Baton Rouge, it was a winning combination we could not pass up," Tharp said. "I have some great memories as a kid with my parents taking me to see the Harlem Globetrotters or the circus in that very same building, so this is pretty cool for me personally."

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.