BATON ROUGE, La. -- This city's downtown riverfront is being
Downtown got its first new hotel in more than 50 years when the
Sheraton Baton Rouge Convention Center Hotel opened Feb. 5.
The 300-room hotel, overlooking the Mississippi, is across from
the city's Riverside Centroplex convention center.
A covered walkway connects the hotel to the Argosy Casino, one
of the Louisiana capital's two riverboat casinos.
Plans are under way to begin work by early summer on the
Centroplex's expansion, expected to be completed in the third
quarter of 2003.
The Sheraton Baton Rouge was designed to fit in with the
architecture of the area's brick warehouses, which have been
converted to offices.
According to the Baton Rouge Area Convention and Visitors Bureau,
the district has seen new restaurants, bars and antique shops
Davis Rhorer, executive director of Baton Rouge's Downtown
Development District, said the new hotel "completes the circle of
art, history, education and entertainment available around our
"We're able to market downtown Baton Rouge around the world in
the way we have always wanted to," he said.
Paul Arrigo, the CVB's vice president of sales and marketing,
said the new hotel and convention center addition will position the
city for larger conferences and conventions, opening new market
"We're truly moving to an arena of national and regional shows
and meetings," he said.
Traditionally, he said, the city's market has been predominantly
state associations and sports (it has Louisiana State University
and Southern University), and it will be able to build on this.
"With the Sheraton open, I think we'll see a lot of interest
from hotel developers," Arrigo added.
The Sheraton has 14,000 square feet of function space, plus a
Arrigo noted that a planetarium proposed for downtown will add
meeting and entertainment space.
The $10 million Irene W. Pennington Planetarium will be built
next to the Louisiana Arts and Science Center.
Included will be a 150-seat theater with a 60-foot-wide domed
Groundbreaking was held last October; construction is scheduled
to start soon, and the facility is expected to open in spring next
Last November, voters approved funding for the Centroplex
Currently, the facility features 28,000 square feet of
exhibition space; a 30,000-square-foot arena seating 12,500, and a
The addition will provide 70,000 square feet of additional space
that can be combined with the arena to provide 100,000 square feet
of exhibition space.
The existing 28,000 square feet of exhibition space will be
converted to a ballroom.
"This will give us a neat package of an arena, a ballroom, a
theater and an exhibition hall," said Arrigo.
"Baton Rouge is a very affordable destination, and we take pride
in providing an authentic Louisiana experience."
The state splits Louisiana into five regions for tourism
marketing purposes: North (Sport's Paradise), Central (Crossroads),
South (Cajun Country), South Central (Plantation Country) and
Southeast (Greater New Orleans).
Baton Rouge, 77 miles northwest of New Orleans, is part of
Plantation Country, which was named last fall by Fodor's as one of
the world's top 10 overlooked and underrated winter
For details, call the Baton Rouge Area CVB at (800)
The CVB's Web site can be found at www.batonrougetour.com.