$1M incentive helped lure Bayou Country Superfest back to Baton Rouge

Today’s announcement that Bayou Country Superfest is returning to its original home in Tiger Stadium after being held for the past two years at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, came about in part because of an incentive deal worth an estimated $1 million for the festival’s producer.

Visit Baton Rouge will pony up $350,000 in cash, as will the Louisiana Office of Tourism. The city-parish, meanwhile, will rebate to the festival 2% of sales taxes generated during the event, which is what it did for four of the seven years the festival was held in Baton Rouge. Those rebates generated more than $200,000 a year.

Despite the upfront cash, the festival more than pays for itself, according to local hospitality officials. They note that during festival’s successful seven-year run from 2010 to 2016 in Tiger Stadium—even in years where attendance was down over the previous year—the event was a boon to local hotels and to the Baton Rouge brand, which is blasted across the country via social media.

Before Bayou Country Superfest, for instance, local hotel occupancy rates over the sleepy Memorial Day holiday weekend averaged just 36%, with net revenue per room less than $26. By 2014, occupancy averaged nearly 80% and net revenue per room topped $80.

It wasn’t at all clear that Bayou Country Superfest would return to Baton Rouge after two years of declining attendance and off-season renovations to Tiger Stadium, which prompted the move to New Orleans.

But Baton Rouge tourism officials never gave up hope. Visit Baton Rouge President Paul Arrigo, who helped land the inaugural Bayou Country Superfest in 2010, says he kept in touch with producer Festival Productions Inc., “calling them two or three times a year, telling them we wanted them back.”

When Robert Munson became senior associate director of athletics at LSU a year ago, he also made it a priority to bring the festival back. He says festival officials reached out in October and all the parties began talking.

Though LSU incurs significant costs hosting the festival and renting out its stadium, in the past it has made out well, getting a cut of ticket sales, a share in concession sales, half of parking revenues and reimbursement for most of its expenses. It’s unclear whether those terms will apply to next year’s festival.

Acts have not been finalized yet, but organizers are already promoting ticket sales. The festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, May 25 and 26.

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