The best location for a new performing arts center to replace the Heymann Performing Arts Center in Lafayette is at the corner of Cajundome Boulevard and Congress Street, a feasibility study has concluded.
Building a new center will cost between $100 million and $150 million and the new site is expected to be operated by a private third-party management company, the feasibility study continues. The Heymann Center is operated by city employees under the supervision of the city council and administration.
The conclusions of the feasibility study commissioned by the Lafayette Economic Development Authority were published Thursday evening in a 150-page report. It was conducted by Conventions, Sports & Leisure International, “one of the nation’s leading public gathering facility consultancies”, according to a press release from LEDA.
LEDA has been selected by Mayor-Chairman Josh Guillory to oversee the comprehensive study for the construction of a new, state-of-the-art performing arts center to replace the Heymann Performing Arts Center on College Drive in the Oil Center .
The Heymann Center, owned by the city of Lafayette, was built in 1960 and has undergone minimal renovations and upgrades, according to LEDA’s press release, costing it shows and revenue. The cost of renovating the theater and convention space would be as much as building a new center, the statement said.
The growth and expansion of Ochsner Lafayette General surrounded the Heymann Center. Medical center leaders have long expressed an interest in taking over the property where the performing arts center is located because it is landlocked and cannot expand.
Guillory said the city would not sell the center unless another was built to replace it.
A committee of community stakeholders was assembled in 2021 by former Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, now a lobbyist for Ochsner, to consider replacing the Heymann Center and freeing up the property for Ochsner to purchase.
The property at the corner of Cajundome Boulevard and Congress Street, across from Cajun Field and the Cajundome, earned the highest score on 18 criteria, including feedback from local stakeholders and national event promoters, used to assess seven potential locations for the new performing arts center.
A proposed downtown location in the parking lot of First Horizon (formerly Iberia Bank) on Congress Street and the Northgate Mall were the next two highest-rated locations.
Other sites considered were Acadian Hills near Interstate 10 and Interstate 49, the former Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital on St. Mary Boulevard at St. Landry Street, and the former Trappey’s Cannery property on the river Vermilion near Evangeline Hwy and Pinhook Rd.
CSL recommends building a center with a 2,250-seat main theater/performance hall and a 25,000-30,000 square foot ballroom/convention hall.
The company noted that comparable performing arts centers across the country are funded by a combination of public and private money. For Lafayette, the study suggests the most viable option would be increased sales tax revenue through the creation of a TIF district and state capital expenditure fund.
The city applied in November for state assistance to replace the arts center. A municipal sales tax was discussed as a potential funding source. City council approval would be required to place it on the ballot for voter approval.
LEDA delivers report to city and state to consider next steps.