BY FAIMON A. ROBERTS III
Advocate staff writer
June 01, 2012
Organizers of Baton Rouge’s Bayou Country Superfest refused Wednesday to disclose financial information from the two-day event, despite having received $600,000 in subsidies from state and local entities.
“We do not release financial info,” Matthew Goldman, spokesman for Festival Productions Inc. of New Orleans, said in an email response to a request for information.
Festival Productions, the concert’s promoter, received $200,000 each from the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, which is part of under the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, the Baton Rouge Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and a tourism grant from BP allocated to the city-parish.
The subsidies came in the form of sponsorship agreements, for which the Culture, Recreation and Tourism Department and the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau received access to a suite with complimentary food and beverages, tickets and promotional considerations.
According to a budget Festival Productions provided to the three parties, the promoters were expecting the event to earn $5,175,000 in gross revenue. Of that amount, $4 million was to come from ticket sales.
Tickets to the event ranged from $50 to $250 per day, according to the event’s website. Festival promoters said 75,000 people attended, but would not disclose how many tickets were sold and how many were given away.
The organizers were expecting to spend $5 million to stage the event, leaving Festival Productions with a profit of $175,000 according to the budget provided in the sponsorship agreements. Goldman would not say whether revenue or expenses exceeded or fell short of the projections.
Festival Production’s Chief Executive Officer, Quint Davis, said he hopes to bring the event back to Baton Rouge in 2013.
“The success of the third annual Bayou Country Superfest is a real testament to the Festival’s growing reputation as a special weekend of music, fun, and Southern hospitality,” Davis said in a post-event news release. “Bayou Country Superfest is a festival with a very bright future.”
Davis and officials with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office and convention and visitors bureau said they plan to work to keep the event in Baton Rouge.
“We feel confident that the support necessary to move forward with next year’s event will come together soon” Davis said in an email. “We look forward to continuing to grow this powerful contributor to the cultural economy of Baton Rouge and the State of Louisiana.”
Jacques Berry, a spokesman for Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne’s office, said the office hoped to again be a sponsor for next year’s event, but did not know how much financial support they would be able to provide.
“The budget is still up in the air,” Berry said. “We recognize the immense value that it has on the Baton Rouge area.”
Mayor-President Kip Holden did not respond to a request for comment, but Metro Councilman Joel Boé noted that the $200,000 grant from British Petroleum was one-time funds that will not be available to the city-parish next year.
Bayou Country Superfest Superfest received $900,000 in state and local funds to subsidize the new festival during its first year, in 2010. The subsidy were intended to help the concert get “on its feet” with the hope it would become self-sustaining, Boé said.
The same funding was sought for 2011, but the Metro Council ultimately decided not to pay its $300,000 share, mostly because the taxpayer funds had no accountability tied to their use. The Metro Council provided no funds for the 2012 event.
“I think we took the position that it needed to be self-funded or find some other sponsor,” Metro Councilman Chandler Loupe said. “I just don’t think taxpayer dollars need to be used to subsidize a concert.”
Local tourism and hospitality industry officials said the festival is worth keeping in Baton Rouge.
“I am very pleased with all three years,” said Paul Arrigo, the president and chief executive officer of the Baton Rouge Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I think it’s important that it stay in Baton Rouge.”
Boé, who attended the event, said the event could develop similar to New Orleans’ Jazzfest.
“Nobody would dream of moving JazzFest from New Orleans; maybe Superfest can be like that for Baton Rouge,” he said.
Local hoteliers and restauranteurs said the event was a boon to their business.
“For a Memorial Day weekend, it was pretty awesome,” said Ralph Ney, treasurer of the Baton Rouge Lodging Association. Holiday weekends in Baton Rouge are usually slow because Baton Rouge is not a “destination city,” he said.
Bayou Country Superfest was “almost like an LSU football game in May,” he said. He said official numbers on the occupancy rates for local hotels would not be available for about a month, but that he expected more than 90 percent of the city’s rooms were sold.
“I am a strong advocate for keeping it here,” said Ryan Nizzo, who operates the Acme Oyster House on Perkins Road and is president of the Baton Rouge chapter of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. “We had a lot of guests from out of town.”