My home town, in Rapides Parish LA, has a venue, the Coliseum, that was built when I was a kid, to host the local rodeos and the parish fair. At the time it was built, it was a nice venue, on the outskirts of town. A big building, with a dirt floor to support the rodeo, plenty of parking, and nice seating under a towering roof. I can remember, as a child at age 11, going to the rodeo. That was 50 years ago.
As time went on, the land around the Coliseum was developed, the population grew larger and the venue got a little shabby. So, in 2012, the parish police jury asked the voters to dedicate a bond issue, financed by a millage, to renovate the Coliseum, increase parking, and bring the facility up-to-date.
I voted against it, for several reasons. The Coliseum is bounded by commercial property, residential property, and a major state highway. There's no place to expand, so the idea of increased parking was a pipe dream. In addition, the fire district built a big new fire station on the facility, taking land from the Coliseum footprint and reducing the parking. Additionally, as the population has grown, the already stressed parking isn't big enough to handle the premier events, with cars parking on the median of the adjoining four-lane highway, and clogging up the parking in the adjacent commercial properties. Police officers who work events at the Coliseum know that it is too small for the crowds it draws. Working events is often a nightmare because the venue is simply not big enough.
Now, the police jury is suing the architects, who claim that they can't do the improvements and stay within budget.
The Rapides Parish Police Jury directed counsel Monday to file litigation against the former design firm on the Rapides Coliseum renovation project.Well, good for them. The project didn't make any sense in the first place. If the governing body wants my input, I'll be glad to provide it for them. First, abandon the Coliseum. It has exceeded its design life, and while it was once a nice facility, it doesn't make sense to put any more money into it.
The jury terminated its contract with Barron Heinberg & Brocato of Alexandria in August after the firm reported it could not complete the project within the $23 million budget. More than $600,000 had been spent on the project already. The litigation seeks to recoup some of that money.
If Rapides Parish needs a venue, then build another one with the tax money that we've already dedicated, or return the money to the taxpayers. If the Police Jury decides to build, then the facility should be self-sufficient. with sufficient revenue from promoters to pay for itself. Just like any business, if it makes money, good, if it doesn't make money then it should be abandoned. But, whatever the Police Jury decides, pouring money into the old land-locked Coliseum makes no sense at all.