A new performing arts center is needed in Lafayette, regardless of location, tourism CEO says | business


When the decision is made to replace the Heymann Center somewhere in Lafayette, either of the two locations — downtown or next to the Cajundome — would be beneficial, said Ben Berthelot, president and CEO of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission.

Speaking during a Wednesday Lunch N Learn event hosted by the Downtown Development Authority along with Lt. gov. Billy Nungesser, Berthelot noted how a downtown performing arts center would be spur business but building it near what is dubbed the University Commons project could help spur a full-service hotel in that area.

The feasibility study commissioned by the Lafayette Economic Development Authority targeted the University Commons site as the best location for the center to be built and replace the aging Heymann Performing Arts Center, which was built in 1960.

“I will tell you this: I am excited about it no matter if it lands downtown or if it lands in the University Commons project,” Berthelot said. “From a tourism standpoint, it’s going to be very, very beneficial for us. We know what it can do downtown, but we also know what it could possibly do for University Commons. That project could be the catalyst to make that (full-service hotel) happen.”

The University Commons site beat out the site downtown officials are still pushing to get selected. That site would be the 2 ½-acre parking area around the IberiaBank/First Horizon tower, 200 W. Congress St., with the area across Congress Street to be used for a parking garage.

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DDA CEO Anita Begnaud and others continue to push for the downtown site, citing how only 12 businesses would be impacted by putting it near the Cajundome but 100 would benefit by putting it downtown.

The challenge, if it lands at the University Commons site, would be connecting that area to downtown Lafayette, Berthelot said. The two locations are just under two miles apart.

“We’ve got to find a way to connect the Cajundome area to downtown,” he said. “I always say we would all walk that distance from the Cajundome to downtown in any major city – New York, New Orleans, Austin. You would call me crazy if I asked you to walk from the Cajundome to downtown. We’ve got to figure out a way to better connect those.”

The University Commons project, part of UL’s comprehensive master plan, could include multi-family and retail development, a hotel and an expansion of the Cajundome Convention Center.

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