Tourism leaders hope to benefit from Baton Rouge bicentennial

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge will celebrate its bicentennial Tuesday. The city was incorporated 200 years ago and city tourism leaders hope this anniversary will anchor a big year for visitors.

Tourism officials are hoping Baton Rouge's 200th birthday will bring in some big bucks for the metro area. Paul Arrigo, Visit Baton Rouge president and CEO, said they've been working to keep the celebration going all year by connecting events to the bicentennial.

"We are the state capital," Arrigo said. "We belong to the whole state of Louisiana, so we want everyone throughout the state to visit Baton Rouge in 2017."

Tourism may need that extra boost. While Arrigo said he's "optimistic" about tourism in 2017, the year will hold some challenges. Voters rejected a tax that would have generated money Arrigo said could have provided incentives to boost Baton Rouge's appeal as a host city for major events.

The tourism expert added it is getting hard to compete with other nearby destination cities like New Orleans or Shreveport.

"It's quite competitive," Arrigo explained.

The Bayou Country Super Fest also relocated to New Orleans for its latest edition due to construction at Tiger Stadium and Arrigo admitted the city has gotten a lot of negative press recently thanks to a troubled summer.

Still, Arrigo said the Raising Canes River Center is slated to host several big conventions and events, including the US Bowling Congress Women's Championship. Officials expect the three-month long tournament to pump in millions of dollars into the metro area.

Arrigo also hopes that residents will do their part to bring in visitors, inviting out of state family and friends to the many festivals and events planned for the coming year.

"We want Baton Rouge 200 to get out. We want to extend that invitation to the state," said Arrigo.

The bicentennial celebration will start at 11 a.m. downtown at Town Square and will feature a free concert by the Nick Abraham Band.

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