From the outside, it looked like a perfectly happy marriage, with two partners who’d been together for more than a decade. But without any warning, the Cajundome’s Greg Davis got the equivalent of a Dear John letter last week, and was left feeling like a jilted spouse.
"We’re very disappointed in LHSAA for handling the bid process the way
they did. The process has been severely compromised. The Cajundome does
not do business that way." — Cajundome Director Greg Davis
photo by Terri Fensel
After 12 straight years in the Cajundome, the state’s Top 28 boys high school basketball tournament isn’t likely to return to Lafayette next year. Cajundome Director Davis says the chances appear to be “very slim” following last week’s meeting of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s executive committee. The committee rejected the Cajundome’s bid to host the tournament for the next two years; a last minute bid from Shreveport’s CenturyTel Center also was rejected because it came in past deadline. However, the committee opted to re-open bidding and have both the Cajundome and the CenturyTel Center re-submit their proposals.
The move stunned local organizers with the event, who note that Lafayette has helped make the Top 28 a success. The Cajundome holds the six highest attendance records for the tournament, and community support includes a host of volunteers, restaurants and caterers that donate all meals for the teams, and local “blue coat” sponsors assigned to assist each high school participating in the tournament.
“We’re very disappointed in LHSAA for handling the bid process the way they did,” Davis says. “The process has been severely compromised.” The Cajundome was the only vendor to submit a timely bid and make a presentation to the LHSAA executive committee — but the committee still opted to reject it. “The Cajundome does not do business that way,” says Davis.
LHSAA Commissioner Kenny Henderson counters that LHSAA is a private organization and is not subject to state bid laws. He says the Cajundome will have an equal opportunity in the second round of bids, which the committee is expected to consider in early July. “I don’t think anybody can be any happier with the job that Lafayette has done hosting the Top 28, and I’d love to see it go back to Lafayette,” Henderson says. “But it’s also a business deal, and hopefully everybody will understand that we’re trying to make money off this.”
Henderson, who is from north Louisiana, says the Cajundome’s original bid for the tournament was rejected on the basis that it included a $55,000 fee for hosting the event. The commissioner says the charge is unacceptable. “We’re like any other business,” he says, “and that’s one of the ways that we put money back into our schools and run our organization is with that state championship event, and so we’re trying to make as much money as we can. If we don’t have to pay $50,000, then that’s just more money that we have to operate on.” Henderson confirms that the CenturyTel Arena’s last-minute bid for the Top 28, which was not made public, included a lower facility fee.
For the first nine years of hosting the tournament, the Cajundome did not charge any fee to LHSAA. The Cajundome also did not include a charge in its last contract for the tournament, approved by the LHSAA four years ago. However, a year into the contract, with attendance high and the Cajundome struggling with its expenses, former LHSAA Commissioner Tommy Henry agreed to give the dome a $50,000 facility fee. LHSAA’s finance committee signed off on the deal . Prior to that, the dome was keeping only concession sales, while LHSAA took all ticket proceeds. (In the past 12 years, LHSAA has grossed $3.8 million in Top 28 ticket sales.) The dome provided staff, VIP rooms and meals. Davis says Henry negotiated the fee based on provisions in the contract and the fact that LHSAA pays the Superdome $70,000 to host its other marquee event, the state high school football championships.
Henderson says Lafayette should look at the bigger picture. He notes the LHSAA has estimated the Top 28 tournament, which runs for one week, has a $2.5 million net economic impact on the city. “So, $50,000 is a lot more to us than it would be to [Lafayette] compared to $2.5 million from an economic impact standpoint,” he says.
Greg Davis disputes those figures. And even with the $50,000 facility fee, Davis says the Cajundome lost approximately $20,000 putting on the Top 28 tournament this year. Furthermore, the Cajundome is faced with the additional financial burden of a recent court ruling requiring them to charge an 8 percent sales tax. Davis says the LHSAA is looking for bids with no facility charge, but that’s not a realistic option for the dome. Davis recently met with members of the Cajundome Commission and local volunteers for the Top 28 tournament — and the group decided that the Cajundome would re-submit its original bid for the event. “Our bid stands,” Davis says. “There’s only so much flexibility in that budget, and we are already being stretched.”
MAY 22 This post was written the day after the second line shooting in NOLA, by Brentin Mock. Mock is a friend of Deb "Big Red" Cotton, a blogger who was shot in the back and was seriously injured. It is a raw, emotional piece of writing, something the writer obviously felt he needed to get off his chest. But it raises questions that can't be easily dismissed, and might give some insight into where the source of these events truly is.
MAY 22 In this Baton Rouge Business Report post, Rolfe McCollister considers the privatization of bus service in Baton Rouge. After decades of under-funding, it is a mess, and although a tax (partially) passed last year, improvement hasn't happened yet. McCollister apparently feels it is time to let private business get in on the transit business.
MAY 22 This post on Bayou Buzz by Jeff Crouere urges the defeat of a bill that would grant modest pay increases over the next several years to the state's judges and clerks of court. The state is in no position to fund pay hikes, Crouere argues, with the pay increases costing a total of $9 million over several years. It sends the wrong message to the (proverbial) hard-working people of Louisiana, he says.
MAY 22 The Advocate reports here that State Treasurer John Kennedy is complaining about a meeting of the corporation that oversees the state's tobacco settlement. The Governor wanted it restructured, and he has some support, but not a lot. The corporation agreed with his plan, but Kennedy didn't, and it appears that the meeting was noticed in a manner completely different than that of all previous meetings. Kennedy's given to hyperbole, but in this case the fish don't smell too fresh.
MAY 22 In this Advocate story, Carencro Police Chief Carlos Stout says the recent federal indictment of a strip club owner is all wrong. The indictment alleges that drugs and prostitution went on with impunity because club staff made arrangements with "local" police. Stout says it never happened, and while his cops do work security in the parking lot, they're not allowed inside.
MAY 22 This amusing post in DIG Baton Rouge recounts an ad that ran on Craig's List recently; the advertiser was seeking tenants for a Beauregard Town house. He knew his market, and wrote an ad that the most ironical hipster couldn't resist. Apparently, he really did know his market, because the ad worked like a charm.
MAY 22 In this post in The Lens, Mark Moseley comments on the rhetoric Gov. Jindal employed in trying to save his tax "reform" package. One interesting point concerns Jindal's use of his brother, Nikesh, in a little story. Nikesh left Louisiana because of his inability to get a decent job, the story goes, but the story won't hold water: Nikesh lives in DC, which has an income tax level comparable to Louisiana, Moseley says. If income taxes caused the dismal situation, it should exist in DC too. Right?
MAY 22 This post by columnist John Maginnis traces the trajectory of the bill that would fund construction at community and technical colleges -- and bypass the Board of Regents and traditional higher ed funding mechanisms. Sure, it will bust the legislature's self-imposed debt limit, but some leges feel that there's more need (because there is more growth) in the community and technical college area than in the university area, he says.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.