LETTER: Time to save the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

I recently finished serving a 4-year term on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Consumer Shows, an organization representing all public events held in the United States each year. I am very familiar with public event facilities all over the country.

I am also a Consumer Show Producer and have been producing events in Louisiana for the last 23 years.

One of our events, a multi-million dollar event called the Louisiana Fall RV and Camping Show has been held at Lamar-Dixon for the last 2 years. For 15 years prior to that, it was held at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.

We took a substantial risk in moving away from a proven, established location to move to a new location, The Lamar-Dixon Expo Center. Our event has done quite well there for 2 years and, like all the other events held at Lamar Dixon, has had a very large positive economic impact on your parish.

Now, we are faced, along with a multitude of other events, to pull out of your parish and take our events elsewhere. A huge loss for your parish.

If you were to hire an economist to do a study on the economic impact of Lamar Dixon on your parish you would probably be shocked.

I heard that Lamar-Dixon almost broke even in the last year. (That is) almost unheard of. I don't know of any event facilities anywhere that operate in the black, but due to huge positive economic impact generated, the benefits far outweigh the relatively small deficits.

Do you realize that there is not another facility like Lamar-Dixon anywhere in the Southern United States - 100 acres developed and over 60 acres paved.

I'll tell you something else. In my 23 years of producing events and involvement in the National Association of Consumer Shows, I have never heard of a public event facility closing down anywhere in the United States.

So, you have this $60 million facility available to you for around $7 million. Sounds like an unbelievably generous offer by Mrs. Dixon. I guarantee you most cities and counties across the U.S.A. would kill to have a facility like Lamar Dixon.

I realize there are many political complexities in Ascension Parish which make this a difficult problem to solve, but it can be done. It's amazing how quickly some area leaders seem to want to throw in the towel and give up. OK, so the election didn't work out. I think it was very unfortunate and poor timing, but you don't give up just because plan A didn't work. Come up with a plan B, C and D.

Don’t give up. Get creative. Find another solution.

Lee Iococca recently wrote a book entitled "Where Have all the Leaders Gone?” I and many others are asking the same thing. Everyone I talk to about the closing of Lamar-Dixon and the fact that there is still no solution and the fact that a $60 million facility was offered to the parish for $7 million and they can't come up with the money, says this...”I can’t believe it.”

I expect there is more than one councilman that is opposed to Lamar-Dixon because of their occupation. They probably work at a plant which opposes many things concerning Lamar-Dixon.

They have their reasons, which may or may not be justified, but I expect they are looking out for their own interests.

By the way, the staff that runs Lamar-Dixon is very professional and competent. They get more done with their skeleton staff then other places where we produce events that have three times the personnel. I am perplexed why they aren't kept in the loop as far as developments to save Lamar-Dixon. They need to be.

All of us who produce events at Lamar-Dixon are currently looking for other venues to move our events because Lamar-Dixon is one big question mark now. Most of us put our events at risk to go to Lamar-Dixon and we feel you have let us down. If there is a light at the end of the tunnel you need to let Eddie Crawford and staff and those of us who produce events there know what is going on now. Otherwise, you'll lose all of us.

I spoke with Bob DelGiorno this morning, producer of the Louisiana Sportsman's Show, which will be held at Lamar-Dixon this weekend. He held his show at the Louisiana Superdome for 25 years or so and then moved it to Lamar-Dixon.

He told me that a number of state leaders would be touring Lamar-Dixon and his event this coming Friday, March 13. Among them will be Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu.

Please feel free to contact me if I can be of assistance or if you have any questions.

Bart A. Caple

BAC Producitons, LLC