Money Magnet: Study says Civic Center a boon for area

Crime blotter: Reported offenses in the Tri-parishes
October 9, 2013
4 tips for buying insurance without subsidy help
October 9, 2013
Crime blotter: Reported offenses in the Tri-parishes
October 9, 2013
4 tips for buying insurance without subsidy help
October 9, 2013

Visitors drawn to Terrebonne Parish by Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center events directly contributed $5.2 million to the local economy in 2012, according to an evaluation by the independent Division of Business and Economic Research at UNO.

Overall, the civic center generated a $10.2 million impact on Terrebonne’s economy and $297,000 in local tax dollars while supporting or creating 131 full- and part-time jobs last year, according to the report, made public last week.

Janel Ricca, the civic center’s executive director, said the study affirmed the facility’s role as an economic catalyst that also provides entertainment for parish residents. “I suspected it was going to be good,” she said.

The $10.2 million figure for 2012 combines direct spending and secondary spending, often referred to as the “ripple effect.”

Direct spending totaled $7 million. Of that amount, $5.2 million was attributed to out-of-parish visitors. The remainder of direct spending, about $1.7 million, was a result of the civic center’s own expenses, according to the report. Facility-specific spending includes salaries and goods and services necessary to host an event.

“That’s a pretty good spend for a function like that,” said John Williams, the University of New Orleans’ dean of business, in assessment of the civic center’s economic impact.

DBER has in the past nine months released economic reports on the Super Bowl, the BCS National Championship, Voodoo Fest, Satchmo Fest, the National World War II Museum and the Final Four, among many other events. “I would say we handle infinitely more than any other entity in the U.S,” Williams said.

To gauge the civic center’s impact, DBER used a Terrebonne-specific multiplier pulled from a national database, Williams said. Attendance figures, culled by the civic center from promoters’ post-event surveys, weighed heavily into the study, he added, though UNO does review other data, whether it is used to formulate the results or check the veracity of the figures provided to the entity.

“We did not run into any (embellishment) problems with this particular event,” Williams said.

The report’s cost was around $2,000, according to Ricca, who said 2012 was a good “baseline year” to study because it was far enough removed from the 2010 oil spill and major hurricanes to be tainted.

The civic center’s budget last year was $2.5 million. About one-fifth of that amount was funded through the center’s charges for services.

Opened in 1999, the 100,000-square-foot multi-purpose civic center hosts an array of events, ranging from private graduation ceremonies, wedding receptions and Mardi Gras functions to sporting events, concerts and days-long conventions open to the public.

The civic center’s economic impact was last studied in 2006, also by the University of New Orleans division. That study credited the facility with a $9.1 million impact on the local economy, though Ricca said it may have been inflated by a general Terrebonne Parish boon one year following Hurricane Katrina.

Its 2012 economic impact was determined by four elements: the salaries of people employed directly by the civic center; the goods and services purchased locally as a result of civic center operations; local expenses incurred by visitors drawn by civic center events; and the secondary spending resulting from the first three elements.

It does not include spending by Terrebonne residents who attended events at the civic center, excluding, for example, their paid transportation to private events or pre-event dinner at a local restaurant. “It is assumed that these residents would have spent these dollars elsewhere in the local economy,” the four-page report reads.


Thirty percent of the 125,000 people who attended 112 unique events at the civic center that year reside outside of Terrebonne Parish, according to the report.

Many visitors, especially for multi-day events, room at the nearby Courtyard by Marriott, one beneficiary of the civic center’s impact.

Richard Hendrix, the hotel’s general manager, said he doesn’t track data specifically related to the facility’s events. But he understands the two entities have a symbiotic relationship.

“Because of our proximity to the center, we get, probably, more than our fair share of business,” Hendrix said. “One of the reasons why the hotel was built here (almost three years ago) was to provide an anchor hotel to the civic center. … Certain groups, such as the police jury and other large groups did not consider Houma, I guess, before because they did not have an anchor hotel.”

Steubenville on the Bayou, the annual weekend-long Catholic youth conference hosted by the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, was credited with drawing 2,500 out-of-parish attendees.

“It is the most steady, repetitive, biggest event that we have that is a tourism impact event,” Ricca said, emphasizing that 2,500 nonresidents are bussed into Terrebonne for Steubenville. Because it returns annually, the conference carries a ton of cache when evaluating the facility’s ongoing economic impact.

“We’ve been able to maintain a lot of the same events we’ve had way back when, and I think that’s a big thing, to keep those events coming,” Ricca said.

Chouest Fest, a one-day private function for employees of Edison Chouest Offshore and subsidiaries, also drew 2,500 unique visitors, many from Lafourche Parish. The civic center also hosted the Policy Jury Association Convention in 2012.

Various unique events with regional and national draws have – or will – contributed to local coffers. Earlier this year, the center played host to the Louisiana H.O.G. Rally; in December, Disney makes a long-awaited return with its Junior Live on Tour: Pirate and Princess Adventure; and the Antique Automobile Club of America has committed to host one of its national competitive meets in Houma in 2015, Ricca said.

“I do think that because Houma has grown and Terrebonne Parish has grown, it’s allowed us to even host bigger and better events, which is going to be great for us, but it’s helping the community, exactly what this report is all about,” she said.

Ricca also credited the civic center staff’s persistence in maintaining relationships with promoters and ensuring all needed amenities are provided when they come to town.

“It’s just providing the Southern hospitality, the quality of service from our staff,” she said.

And it doesn’t hurt that facility leadership never increased rental rates. “We have not wanted to put a burden on our local people that want to book the facility,” Ricca said.

Last year, the civic center was active for 159 days, the report says, which equated to a 43 percent utilization rate. That number “does not include load in and load out days,” which can be three days for some events, Ricca said. “We’re usually booked up solid least six or seven months of the year, but where we could use more business is on the weekdays.”

Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center Executive Director Janel Ricca stands in the center’s parking lot in this file photo. Events at the facility contributed $10.2 million to the local economy last year, according to a study by University of New Orleans’ Division of Business and Economic Research.