AT LAST: Lamar-Dixon signed over to parish

Wade McIntyre
Mary Lee Dixon, signs a sale document Wednesday turning ownership of Lamar-Dixon Expo Center over to Ascension Parish government. Looking on is Parish President Tommy Martinez.

An agreement signed by officials Wednesday at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center turned ownership of the facility and its nearly 250 acres of property over to Ascension Parish for $7.5 million.

“It’s a proud day in Ascension Parish,” said Parish President Tommy Martinez after signing the sale documents with the facility builders Bill and Mary Lee Dixon and Lamar-Dixon Expo Center Foundation Chairman Jackie Rome.

The ceremony at the expo center attracted state legislators, Parish Council members, and representatives of Louisiana’s U.S. senators and congressmen who spoke in their boss’ stead.

“It’s a great day in Ascension Parish and Louisiana,” said State Sen. Jody Amedee, echoing the sentiments of Martinez. “It’s been a long road, but nobody ever gave up.”

Amedee related how Martinez called local, state and federal representatives together “to give it one more shot” after voters defeated a millage proposal last year for the parish to purchase the center.

From the ashes of that defeat rose a funding package of state, federal and private funds to buy the center.

Shortly before 5:30 p.m., Martinez handed over a $250,000 check from the parish to Rome. It represented the first of four payments to buy the facility, including a final payment of $6 million.

Martinez recalled how during his first term Mary Lee Dixon initially proposed either building an equestrian center for the parish, or donating $12 million for the parish to build one.

He said he told Dixon if the parish built the facility it would probably be “a screw-up.”

Dixon eventually sunk $54 million into the expo center construction, but four years ago agreed to a lease-purchase agreement with the parish for a $7.5 million purchase.

Speaking briefly, Mary Lee Dixon praised Martinez for staying the course leading to the deal.

“I don’t know how he did it, but he managed to get it all done,” she said.

Martinez told the crowd of about 50 persons he hoped the parish would make money on the center, but having Lamar-Dixon for the children of the parish is the ultimate goal of the purchase.