There’s more energy behind the effort to get a new performing arts center built in Lafayette, “more than I ever expected to see in my lifetime,” Acadiana Center for the Arts director Sam Oliver said.
Speaking during a Wednesday Lunch N Learn event hosted by Downtown Lafayette Unlimited, Oliver noted how the project remains in the early stages of development but remains a goal of the arts community in the region.
Lafayette Consolidated Government is currently accepting requests for land for a new performing arts center to replace the 62-year-old Heymann Center, which sits on land Ochsner Lafayette General has inquired about purchasing. Recent debate has centered around whether to build it on land next to Cajun Field or in downtown Lafayette.
“Our wish list is that project happens,” Oliver said. “I think there’s a lot, a lot of energy in the city to see a significant project of that scale happen. I’m really excited to see it progressing.”
Proposals must be submitted by Feb. 22 and must include sections of land between three and six acres, Utilities and infrastructure access and room for 760 vehicles to park. Among the proposals expected are the 32-acre Cajun Field site and the nearly 4 Acres next to the First Horizon Bank tower downtown, but other proposals could surface.
Factors to be considered in selecting a site include cost, size of the property, walkability, if demolition is needed, development potential of surrounding property, traffic and road conditions, regional accessibility and amenities near the property.
Once a site is selected, the next step will be a request for Architects and engineers to design the facility, which Oliver noted will be crucial in the success of the building once construction is complete. The Heymann Center, he noted, was built similar to other centers around the country at that time.
The Performing arts world, he noted, has “changed dramatically” in terms of technology, production and the types of shows touring the country.
“The Younger audience goer is expecting something very different from a very traditional, older audience member,” he said. “We see the participation in the Performing arts events at the national scale has declined — except in very specific areas, where it’s growing and growing remarkably. A lot of those are much more of the participatory, standing-room, engaged experience. What we build is very much going to be a direct determinant of how successful it is.”
If funding is a hurdle to bring the project downtown, there could be private sources of funding to help, he noted. It’s arguable to say the project would be more costly to build it at the downtown site, he said, but it’s up to donors as to whether or not they would contribute to the project.
In Greensboro, North Carolina, which is home to the newly built Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts, the city’s community foundation raised $35 million for the project, including $7.5 million from Tanger, the head of Tanger Factory Outlets.
“I think there’s a great potential as we’re wandering through this debate over location and what it is and how it works,” he said. “I think that’s a real possibility, but I don’t know who that is. And, of course, they have to have a pretty big checkbook.”