By TONY TAGLAVORE, Journal Sports
Last October, it was characterized by many as a two-out, bottom of the ninth inning effort by then-incumbent mayor Adrian Perkins to gain support (votes) just weeks before Shreveport’s general election.
However, almost five months later, the game is still being played — with a new mayor in the batter’s box.
Tom Arceneaux, who took office Dec. 31, has since met twice with REV Entertainment, the Arlington, Texas-based company which pitched to Perkins the idea of building a baseball stadium and accompanying entertainment district on the site of the Louisiana State Fairgrounds.
Those meetings have led Arceneaux to look for ways to keep the idea alive — ways to help finance the project, and the stadium in particular.
“I did not want to say, ‘Oh, gee, this is simply too big for Shreveport. This is not something we can do,” Arceneaux told the Journal. “We’ve had some of that in the past, and I don’t want to have that reputation.”
Arceneaux said that while REV would have some capital investment in the project should it come to fruition — and would manage the stadium — the city would be responsible for building the stadium. The mayor said that would require “a fairly sophisticated approach to financing.”
“I think we built Fair Grounds Field (the former home of the Shreveport Captains minor league baseball team which opened in 1986) for somewhere in the five or six million dollars range,” Arceneaux said. “We’re talking here about tens of millions of dollars. It is a very big project, with a very big upfront ask from the City of Shreveport. We do not want to say we can’t do it, but at the same time, we don’t want to go jumping off a cliff, either.”
A message left by the Journal for an REV spokesperson was not returned.
The city and REV are not far enough along in their discussions to know if REV will guarantee a tenant for the stadium.
“The likelihood is, it will be an independent team, rather than a minor league team,” the mayor said.
When interest was first announced between the city and REV, some questioned the proposed project’s location. However, Arceneaux doesn’t have any questions about the location.
“We control all the real estate we would need to do it. Plus, I think that’s a great location. It’s a marquee location. It would transform the appearance of the fairgrounds, and obviously the fact it is right there on I-20 is significant. There is enough acreage. They want to make use of other facilities that are already there — Independence Stadium, the Hirsch (Coliseum). It really makes sense for it to be there if we’re going to do it.”
Meanwhile, Fair Grounds Field remains partially demolished. Arceneaux’s administration canceled the city’s contract with Henderson Construction Services, rather than continue to pay delay damages. Demolition was stopped last year, after a group trying to save FGF won a court injunction.
Shelly Ragle, Director of Shreveport Public Assembly and Recreation (SPAR), told the Journal the city paid Henderson Construction Services $338,000 for the partial demolition, as well as delay damages.
“We need to make a decision fairly quickly about (Fair Grounds Field),” Arceneaux said. “If we decide to go with REV Entertainment, they would not be renovating the stadium. It would be a stadium built from the ground up.”
The mayor said he expects to know more on finance options for building a new stadium this month. However, he said it will be a while before a decision is made on whether to go forward with the REV project.
Contact Tony at SBJTonyT@gmail.com