OUR OPINION: Wrong proposal for Lamar-Dixon

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

News that an unnamed developer would like to bring eight groups together, including Sorrento's River Parishes Community College and some construction trade organizations, to build an industrial training facility at Lamar-Dixon hit the streets last week.

In a free market one hears all kinds of ideas and proposals for business development. Some are good, some bad and some are strange.

Turning the 100-acre, $50 million dollar Lamar-Dixon agricultural plant into a training facility for a gaggle of industry groups strikes us as wrong for the parish.

While RPCC and the industry groups would certainly benefit from taking over Lamar-Dixon, we don't think such a radical restructuring of the expo center would benefit the public as a whole.

Lamar-Dixon was designed as an entertainment and cultural facility that pays homage to the agricultural heritage of Ascension Parish. Over the years it has hosted agricultural events and other bookings that are entertainment oriented. When called on in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the expo-enter housed evacuees whose homes were destroyed and hundreds of animals that were separated from their owners.

Lamar-Dixon is one of the premier agricultural venues of its kind in the nation. If the right owner takes over and removes the long-term uncertainty about the center's fate that has prevented major bookings, we think it will prosper and become an economically viable feather in Ascension's cap.

Properly utilized, Lamar-Dixon would enhance the cultural growth of the parish. It could become, among other things, a strong attraction for area youth who complain, and rightfully so, that they have no place to go, to congregate, to socialize.

Turning Lamar-Dixon into a blue-collar training ground would take the parish nowhere that it has not already been.

We know the Lamar-Dixon Foundation has been burned in its effort to turn the facility over to the parish and maintain its mission goal for the facility, but we hope the Foundation will stay its course until the right developer comes along with the right plan for all of Ascension.

More than ever, Lamar-Dixon is an opportunity, not an albatross.