St. John Civic Center may go Hollywood

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

By JESSICA DAIGLE

Staff Reporter

LAPLACE-The St. John Civic Center is heading in a new direction than what was once previously planned, and it may just take a detour through Hollywood.

The center, now under construction on Highway 51, is installing state-of-the -art acoustics that would accommodate a soundstage in an attempt to lure the suddenly burgeoning Louisiana film industry straight to Laplace.

According to Wayne Read, marketing consultant for the center, he and the Economic Development Committee considered what it would take to meet the needs of all the different stakeholders that want to use this center.

“We should never have a situation where we are losing businesses to other businesses within our own region,” Read said. “We started having conversations with the film industry, and found there is a huge need in this market for films to have a soundstage.”

Read pointed out that not only would the parish benefit from the profits made by renting the soundstage, but local restaurants and hotels would also gain business from workers within the film industry.

Though the center is now focusing mainly on this project, it will not be solely used for soundstage purposes. It is the plan that the 40,000 square foot building will be broken down to separate

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areas.

“We have the ability to ‚Ķhave a 10,000 foot soundstage , but then still have a craft fair for local stakeholders in the other square feet,” Read said.

At the St. John the Baptist Parish Council meeting Tuesday night, council members discussed the uses of the facility with members of the Department of Economic Development. After much discussion on whether to agree to let up to $750,000 in bond sales of hotel/motel taxes finance the final stage of the center, the motion was passed.

Read is confident that the loan will be paid back with no problem and said the council members concerns are understandable but should be put to rest.

“We had the feeling that if we took the bond money to make those enhancements, we would actually get a 500% return on that investment,” Read said.

Read admitted that in the initial strategy, maybe a target audience was not figured out and the consensus was that the center would be used primarily for sporting events. He decided not only to make it meet dance, sport and cultural needs, but also needs of the film industry, which is big business.

“These acoustics are designed to meet the highest level of standards for the film industry,” Read said. “We are going to spend the money, but it’s really going to pay for itself.”

According to Read, the civic center is on time with construction, and he is expecting an August opening. He will be “rolling out” marketing tools in about 60 days, and he expects the results to be positive.

“We’ve always been kind of a shoulder region to New Orleans, but this is an opportunity for us to be a leader,” Read said. “This civic center is going to put us in the position to be an economic development driver within the region.