LAFAYETTE — City-parish government will continue paying an annual subsidy of $500,000 for operations at the Cajundome and Convention Center, money that the administration argues is an investment in economic development and quality of life.
The council voted 8-1 to renew a contract with the state-owned facility that calls for the annual financial support, a substantial part of the Cajundome’s $7.2 million operating budget.
The agreement also offers the Cajundome the ability each year to draw on a $100,000 fund for capital projects on an as-needed basis.
Councilman William Theriot cast the only “no” vote against the subsidy.
He argued that city-parish government should prioritize spending at a time when a long list of budget needs are not being met, including money to staff a new fire station that Fire Chief Robert Benoit has said is needed to serve the growing city.
“In my opinion, these monies could be used to subsidize the Fire Department personnel,” Theriot said.
The administration considers the annual payment to the Cajundome a “good deal,” giving the city a civic center for far less than it would cost to run a city-owned facility, Lafayette City-Parish Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley said.
He added that the city-parish gets most of the money back because the $500,000 subsidy covers the annual utility bill that the Cajundome pays to the city-owned electrical service, Lafayette Utilities System.
“Lafayette gets a civic center for $100,000 in capital and $500,000 a year to pay the utility bill,” Stanley said.
The Cajundome hosts a wide range of events, from college sports and Louisiana IceGators hockey games to conventions, seminars, Mardi Gras social balls, concerts and school graduations.
Cajundome Director Greg Davis said many of the events, such as conventions, give a boost to the local economy but do little to help the Cajundome’s bottom line.
The Cajundome could continue to operate without the annual subsidy from city-parish government, Davis said, but the facility would be forced to focus more on high-profit events.
“We would still operate, but there would be a major focus on profit making and less of a focus of civic activities and economic development,” Davis said.
The council’s vote Tuesday replaces an operating agreement with the Cajundome that had been in place since 1987 but was set to expire this year.
The new agreement is for five years.
The Cajundome’s other funding sources include fees for events and a portion of the local hotel and motel tax.
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