The Louisiana High School Athletic Association executive committee yesterday rejected a bid from the Cajundome to host the state’s Top 28 high school boys basketball tournament. The dome, which has hosted the tournament for the past 12 years, was the lone bid on the tournament and the only venue to make a presentation to the committee at the public meeting. The committee was forced to reject hearing an offer from Shreveport’s CenturyTel Center because it came in after deadline. LHSAA is now re-opening the bid in order to be able to consider Shreveport’s bid.
Reached this morning, Cajundome Director Greg Davis says yesterday’s meeting does not bode well for the dome’s chances of keeping the tournament. “The integrity of the bid process in my opinion has been compromised,” he says. “They now know our bid. We don’t know their bid. So in this second round of bidding, the Cajundome is at a great disadvantage and Shreveport is at a great advantage.”
Based on the line of questioning from committee members, Davis says the dome’s offer appears to have been rejected based on the $55,000 facility fee included in the package. For the first nine years of hosting the tournament, the Cajundome did not charge any fee to LHSAA. The Cajundome also did not include a facility fee in its last contract for the tournament, approved by the LHSAA four years ago. However, a year into that contract, with attendance high and the Cajundome struggling with its expenses, former LHSAA Commissioner Tommy Henry agreed to give the dome a $50,000 facility fee. Prior to that, the dome was keeping only concession sales, while LHSAA took all ticket proceeds. The dome provided staff, VIP rooms and meals for the teams. Davis says Henry made the deal based on the fact that LHSAA was already paying the Superdome to host its football championships.
Davis says the new commissioner and committee do not appear to agree with that fee. “It is my impression that they do not want to pay the $50,000,” Davis says. “It is my impression that they want us to resubmit a bid with zero charges.” The committee did not seem to heavily weigh Lafayette’s volunteer organization, which includes team hosts and local restaurants that donate meals, in considering the Cajundome’s bid.
Even with the $50,000 fee, Davis says the Cajundome lost approximately $20,000 putting on the Top 28 tournament this year. Furthermore, Davis says the Cajundome is faced with the additional financial burden of a recent court ruling requiring them to charge an 8 percent sales tax. He says he will be discussing the situation with everyone involved with the tournament. “I’m going to involve the commissioners, the volunteers, everybody,” he says, “and we’re going to have a discussion about this. And I’m going to let them know where we are financially as an institution.”
The Cajundome Commission will likely hold a special meeting in the next two weeks to consider what type of bid, if any, to resubmit. “Can we still afford,” Davis asks, “to submit a bid to the LHSAA for the high school basketball Top 28 that causes the Cajundome to lose money? That is the question. There’s only so much flexibility in that budget and we are being stretched.”