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Bossier Arts Council steps up to become events manager for East Bank District

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BAC Director Robin Jones stands in the East Bank Festival Plaza area just outside the front door of the BAC’s building. (Sean Green/Press-Tribune)

Right outside the front door of the Bossier Arts Council in the East Bank District, a plaza area designed to bring events, foot traffic, and life to the revamped area of Bossier City has sat vacant for the last six months.

So, the BAC is doing something about it.

It’s our front yard. Having a part in bringing in festivals helps all of us,” said BAC Director Robin Jones.

At its July 17 meeting, the Bossier City Council will approve funding that would allow the BAC to act as events manager for the East Bank District’s Plaza area. The council will appropriate $25,000 to fund the ability to manage and promote events in the district.

The BAC would be able to take over the day of the final vote.

“For 30-plus years, our mission has been to provide cultural programming. It expands outside our walls, but we’ve just been having to go to Shreveport to do it. I love Shreveport, but it’s time for some outdoor events in Bossier,” said Jones.

The BAC would hire a new position housed at their building on Barksdale Boulevard. The position will be responsible for booking event dates, collecting fees, making sure insurance is in place, all requirements are met, and all licenses are procured. Jones will perform these functions until they can hire a person for the position.

BAC Director Robin Jones stands in the East Bank Festival Plaza area just outside the front door of the BAC’s building. (Sean Green/Press-Tribune)

The BAC has experience with scheduling events through its performing arts-dedicated East Bank Theater. And as a Bossier City-owned building, the BAC already has a template for property rental contracts.

What is changing is the scope of services, meaning the BAC will need to start with developing a resource binder of potential contractors for events in the East Bank District.

“That is so there’s not one particular contractor handling all the events. The city council wanted a choice,” Jones explained. “We want it to be as open as possible, but we still have to vet some of the contractors.”

But she added, “We’re not going to limit who (events organizers) can and can’t use, so long as they’re licensed.”

The contracts will include pertinent information such as event dates, and requirements like cleanup and outdoor toilets.

“For example, if there’s an event where we’re expecting to have 3,000 people and the organizers don’t have porta potties, we as the manager would come in and say the proper facilities aren’t in place. Because those people would use East Bank tenants’ restrooms and put wear and tear on their businesses.”

This opportunity was the result of an East Bank merchants meeting held late last month at Retro 521 coffee shop in the district. City CAO Pam Glorioso, Mayor Lo Walker, and Councilman Tommy Harvey attended the meeting.

Jones said the area tenants are “really pleased” that the BAC is taking over event management and the merchants group plans to meet twice a month.

“It’s beneficial that we know what each other are doing. It allows for collaboration.”

Jones notes that the BAC’s new role could be inviting something that would create “headaches,” but it’s more than worth it.

“It can be a huge benefit because it’s not being done and the whole goal for East Bank is foot traffic,” she said. “We’re getting phone calls almost daily about using the property, so we know there’s a need there.”

The BAC will report back to the city about their efforts, and will collaborate with the council committee that was created to serve the area.

“They’ve spent a lot of money. They want to make sure their investment is being utilized well,” said Jones. “We felt that was part of the deal.”

The city spent $15 million to redevelop the downtown portion of Bossier City, known as “Old Bossier,” in a two-year effort that saw new infrastructure, roads, landscaping, and amenities installed or overhauled to attract new development. The move came out of a plan to support the millennial workforce that will staff its growing technology industry. The district was officially opened in late November 2017.

“Construction means progress,” Jones said. “We didn’t have natural organic foot traffic before this. Since construction and the plaza opened, traffic has increased greatly.”

Jones said the BAC is ready to start as soon as it is official. She noted there has been interest in food festivals and has been in negotiations about expanding the presence of the Film Prize in October and bringing over an element of the Louisiana Music Prize as well.

“We’ve had to be strategic with our event planning and now that we have more businesses here with things to offer, people don’t feel like they’re coming to us for a one-and-done event,” she said. “This is just an expansion of that.”