The Cajundome is pictured Wednesday, May 20, 2020, in Lafayette, La.

Since March, when the governor ordered residents to stay home and closed businesses due to coronavirus, the Cajundome and Convention Center lost 27 major events and $1.6 million in net revenue.

Director Pam Deville expects to close out the 2019-20 fiscal year Oct. 31 with a $2.2 million net revenue loss.

"We'll be really happy if we can get to 2021," she told the Lafayette City Council Thursday.

Future of Cajundome in jeopardy because of coronavirus losses, director says

In May, Deville told the council and administration about the cancelled events and lost revenue, warning that if things didn't change, the facility could be in danger of closing.

The state paid for the Cajundome building, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette donated the land the city agreed to pay as much as $500,000 a year to subsidize operations. The city subsidy has gone as high as $750,000 one year and often has been lower. In 2018-19, it was cut to $376,382.

Mayor-President Josh Guillory's proposed 2020-21 budget cut that in half, to $167,372.

Deville asked the City Council on Thursday to give the Cajundome the full $500,000 to help it keep on enough staff and provide maintenance until large event centers are reopened and revenue returns.

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Out of 49 employees, all but 17 were laid off and 10 of the 17 are furloughed. In the spring, the Cajundome was granted a $975,000 line of credit, Deville said, but she doesn't want to use it because she's unsure when the facilities will be able to generate the revenue to pay back a loan.

Facilities across the country are in similar situations because of the coronavirus.

"The $500,000 investment the city makes for the Cajundome has a rate of return of $45 million" in money spent at hotels and restaurants, according to a 2019 study by the Lafayette Economic Development Authority, she said.

Eighty-five percent of ticket sales to events at the Cajundome, Deville said, are to people outside Lafayette Parish.

Councilwoman Liz Hebert made a general amendment to the proposed budget to move $332,628 from the City General Fund to the Cajundome for the 2020-21 fiscal year. 

Councilman Pat Lewis objected, noting there are many services being cut and he would like to see the money spread out among them.

The City Council will make a final determination during budget wrap-up Aug. 27.

Guillory proposed a conservative 2020-21 budget, citing declining sales tax revenue due to business closures ordered because of the coronavirus. He instructed department heads to cut 20% from their budgets and reduced or eliminated most subsidies and external funding. The Parish and City Councils are reviewing the budget in a series of meetings through August, where they may make changes to Guillory's proposed budget.

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