Metro Council would offer up to $1.375 million
The U.S. Bowling Congress Open Tournament isn’t due back to Baton Rouge until 2025, but the East Baton Rouge Metro Council will be asked Wednesday to approve a contract cementing the deal and committing up to $1.375 million.
In February, Mayor-President Kip Holden announced that the Bowling Congress Open Tournament had committed to returning to Baton Rouge for a third time in 2025, with a visit from the Women’s Tournament in 2017.
To secure the deal, the city-parish agreed to pay a bid fee of between $1 million and $1,375,000, which is based on an estimate of tournament players at $20 a head. The subsidy will be used for the Bowling Congress to pack, ship, install and construct the bowling facility at the River Center and, upon completion, remove it from the site.
The fee will be paid in annual installments of $125,000 from 2018 through 2025. That means while the current Metro Council and mayor-president will be asked to approve the contract this week, it will be up to a future mayor and council to find the money to pay the tab.
William Daniel, chief administrative officer for the mayor-president, said the contract is binding.
“The Bowling Congress wants assurity that the host city will be hosting it,” Daniel said. “But it’s also binding the Bowling Congress to ensure that they’re actually going to come here.”
The U.S. Bowling Congress Open Tournament was previously held in Baton Rouge in 2005 and 2012.
The contract also guarantees the city-parish that at least 60,000 room nights will be booked during the 2025 tournament. The city-parish will be refunded $10 for every room below the 60,000 room threshold.
“It’s an incentive for their success,” said Paul Arrigo, president of Visit Baton Rouge. “It’s also a clawback if they don’t reach our expectation, but obviously we want them to reach those expectations.”
The Open Tournament, billed as the largest participatory sports event in the world, runs over the course of 4½ months and involves as many as 60,000 bowlers in singles, doubles and team competitions.
Last year, Baton Rouge-based SCI Research estimated 58,704 bowlers visited the city for the tournament, which ran from Feb. 11 until the finals on July 10 at the Baton Rouge River Center.
A study showed the tournament generated an estimated $113.2 million in economic impact, highlighted by $35.6 million for area hotels along with $27.4 million to the food service industry.
“I have heard from several restaurateurs that the Bowling Congress was a real boost, not just in downtown,” said Gary Anderson, board president of the Downtown Business Association. “Anytime you bring that many additional people into an economic area for such an extended time frame, you can get good results if you treat them right.”
Arrigo said the economic impact of past bowling events was felt in many different ways.
“Look at the money that was turned over as waitresses and waiters and dealers in the casino and bellmen received more cash tips,” Arrigo said. “Look at the city’s tax increases each month. That money came from somewhere, and obviously the bowlers were in town spending a good amount of money.”
The bid fee for 2012 was $1.1 million, Arrigo said, estimating that about $400,000 was provided by local sponsorships.
In 2005, the bid free was about $700,000, and sponsors covered about $200,000, Arrigo said.
Arrigo said he hasn’t reached out to sponsors yet for the 2025 Open Tournament but expects that local sponsorships will provide between $400,000 and $700,000, which will reduce the public’s obligation.