Raising Cane's billboards, T-shirts and coupons are some of Baton Rouge's most common sights. And now, the homegrown chicken finger franchise is poised to nab a prime advertising spot with renaming the downtown Baton Rouge River Center as Raising Cane's River Center.
City-parish officials have been dancing around the deal for days, but finally confirmed at a Metro Council meeting Wednesday that they want to give the naming rights to Raising Cane's. Metro Council members voted to allow the city-parish to sign the license and naming rights agreement with Cane's, and city-parish officials said they expect Mayor-President Kip Holden to sign the contract Thursday.
The deal is for 10 years, and Raising Cane's will pay the city-parish more than $3.87 million for the sponsorship over the next decade. Their first payments will be for $370,000 annually between 2016 and 2019 before they have bump-ups for inflation.
Government emails indicate that the River Center will be rebranded with the Raising Cane's name.
Metro Council members were already squabbling over how best to use that money, despite city Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel saying the money would go into the River Center fund and be used mostly for its needs and maintenance. Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis said she had hoped the city-parish could use the extra dollars to hire more youth to work at the River Center over the summers and to create other job opportunities.
River Center General Manager Michael Day said he started reaching out to local businesses last summer to gauge interest in a naming rights deal. Of the 39 businesses he courted, six went forward with face-to-face meetings and more serious talks about a naming agreement.
But five of those six companies were not willing to pay for the naming rights, he said.
"The one company that did, Raising Cane's, is so proud of Baton Rouge," Day said.
The "Raising Cane's River Center" name would be for most of the buildings in the complex, including the arena, exhibition hall, ballroom and galleria. But the Baton Rouge River Center's Theatre for the Performing Arts would be excluded.
Sam Voisin, the regional vice president for SMG, the company that manages the Baton Rouge River Center, said much of the interest in such a deal is based on impressions. He said similar venues in markets about the size of Baton Rouge do better business when they have named sponsorships, while it also increases the exposure for a company's brand.
Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso questioned why the city-parish did not put out a request for proposals for the naming rights, but Voisin said RFPs are less effective for such deals than they are for routine city contracts. He said the face-to-face meetings work better.
The Metro Council unanimously voted to allow the license and naming agreement to go forward. Those involved in the deal will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. Thursday to announce more details.
In other news, the Metro Council deferred voting for 30 days on a contract for a private company to start running healthcare services at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. This is the second time the council has delayed voting on the contract, after nurses who work at the prison asked the council earlier this month not to approve the contract for fear of losing their benefits.
The contract with Georgia-based CorrectHealth LLC is for $5.29 million a year. The nurses allege the city-parish would incur more out-of-pocket expenses with the private company, while city-parish leaders have said the private company would be cheaper and more efficient. Metro Council members Scott Wilson, Joel Boé, Ryan Heck, John Delgado and Amoroso voted to approve the contract before it was deferred.
Local government leaders have said they have arranged for CorrectHealth to hire the prison nurses, though the nurses would have to switch to the private company's benefits system.