Miss USA pageant coming to BR

Mayor-President Kip Holden has wanted Baton Rouge to host a major pageant since Hurricane Katrina prevented the Miss Teen USA competition from returning to the capital city in 2006.

This summer, Holden will get his wish when the Miss USA pageant is held at the Baton Rouge River Center on June 8.

“2014 is the year,” Holden said at an announcement event Thursday. “This will give extraordinary exposure to our city — showcasing Baton Rouge as a true destination city.”

Donald Trump, owner of the Miss Universe Organization, formally announced the site selection Thursday morning on the “Today” Show.

“It’s just a place that really wanted us,’’ Trump said of Baton Rouge.

Donning a dazzling “Mr. USA” sash for Thursday’s announcement, Holden said downtown’s revitalization events like Bayou Country Superfest and the growing film industry presence were all used to sell Baton Rouge as a good host site.

“Miss USA officials have told me they find the sense of community in Baton Rouge inspiring and the hospitality shown to them second to none,” he said.

The Miss USA pageant has been held in Las Vegas since 2008, but it was held in Shreveport in 1997 and 1998.

Baton Rouge hosted the Miss Teen USA pageant in 2005, but plans to host it again the following year had to be scrapped as Baton Rouge dealt with the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

Trump said 12 cities were “fighting for the rights” to host this year’s Miss USA pageant.

He described Baton Rouge as “sort of the home of pageantry, it’s sort of the home of the whole beauty thing. They’re terrific people, and they’re going to put on a great show. We’re really excited.”

In a statement released through the pageant organization, Trump also touted Baton Rouge’s growing film industry.

“Since the inception of its Film Commission in 2007, the city of Baton Rouge has quickly become a filming destination for the entertainment industry,” he said. “We are happy the Miss USA telecast will put a focus on the huge economic development that has occurred there.”

To lure the pageant to Baton Rouge, Visit Baton Rouge offered a $300,000 incentive package, including $50,000 for events to showcase Baton Rouge.

The state Office of Tourism also gave $50,000 to attract the event, and the pageant may further qualify for discounted event space, cost waivers or other perks.

Leaders wouldn’t speculate how much of an economic impact the event could have, but they are expecting it to be a boon to the local economy.

“Any opportunity we have to focus the eyes of the entertainment world on our community and on our state is just another feather in our cap,” Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said. “You can’t put a dollar figure on how valuable that is.”

Contestants will stay at L’Auberge Casino Hotel during the competition, and others in town for the production will stay at downtown hotels.

Visit Baton Rouge President Paul Arrigo estimated that would translate to an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 occupied room nights.

Officials added the live broadcast of the pageant on NBC will provide opportunities to highlight Baton Rouge to millions of viewers.

“This is going to be a huge event,” Arrigo said.

Dardenne said the incentives are consistent with those given to other events and festivals.

“This is a bargain to have an event like this come to Baton Rouge,” he said.

According to Nielsen ratings, as reported by Variety, the 2013 Miss USA pageant had 5.5 million viewers nationally — down about 20 percent from the previous year. The pageant organization claims that millions more watch the pageant across the globe.