Bill would create fund to help lure Super Bowl, other major sporting events to Louisiana _lowres

FILE- This Feb. 3, 2013 file photo made with a fisheye lens shows fans lined up to enter the Superdome before the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gene Puskar, File)

Looking for a way to secure the money needed to attract big sporting events, like the Super Bowl, a Louisiana House committee Wednesday advanced legislation that would create a fund for that purpose.

Officials deciding where to hold tournaments want assurances that the promised money to help stage the event is in place, said Jay Cicero, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, adding “The importance of this bill is paramount.”

Senate Bill 218 would create a special fund to be filled with a portion of excise and sales taxes to be used for incentives and projects needed to secure major events that could attract a lot of fans and attention.

For instance, the 2014 NBA All-Star game generated $60.4 million in direct spending and another $45.7 million in secondary spending, according to a study by the University of New Orleans’ Hospitality Research Center. Out-of-town visitors spent an average of $904 during their mid-February trip to New Orleans, which generated $4.9 million in taxes for the state.

New Orleans is preparing to bid next week on being the site of an NCAA college football championship game, Cicero said. And the NFL recently allowed New Orleans to compete for being the location of the Super Bowl in 2019 or 2020.

“We are thankful for the invitation to bid on hosting the Super Bowl in 2019 and 2020,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement released Wednesday. “New Orleans has hosted some of the best, most successful Super Bowl games in recent memory, and we look forward to submitting a competitive bid to continue that history of excellence.”

State Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, said New Orleans is competing with Tampa, Miami and Atlanta for the Super Bowls in 2019 and 2020.

Those cities have much larger corporate culture than New Orleans, said Sen. Ed Murray, the New Orleans Democrat sponsoring SB218. It’s usually the corporations that pony up the dollars needed to secure a bid. “We’ll have this fund there to tap into these events,” he said.

The Senate approved the legislation May 13 on a vote of 24-14. The House & Governmental Affairs Committee approved the legislation with nary a negative voice raised. It now goes to the full Louisiana House for consideration.

As the House concluded business Wednesday night, Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, gave notice that he would attempt to have representatives hear the legislation out of order on Thursday.

The Major Events Incentive Program subfund would be established within the Mega-Project Development Fund under SB218.

The secretary of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development would be authorized to contract local organizing committees that are supporting recruiting special events.

Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, said the legislation is not New Orleans-specific. The bill lists specific events that would be sought — such as the NCAA Final Four and national political conventions — using the fund’s money, but other events could be added.

Murray said the committee overseeing this fund would be open to adding other events. He noted that the list already includes the Bass Masters Classic, a fishing tournament that has taken place in northwest Louisiana, and the U.S. Bowling Congress Tournament, which has taken place in Baton Rouge.

Cicero said his colleagues at other authorities around the state look for ways to more aggressively pursue these kinds of events. “This allows them to do that,” he said.

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