Metro Council signs off on River Center upgrades, other Miss USA expenses

In preparation for the Miss USA pageant’s arrival this June, the Metro Council this week approved $1.2 million for upgrades at the River Center and an additional $67,000 to cover utility and labor expenses for the event.

Mayor-President Kip Holden announces the Miss USA pageant will be held in Baton Rouge. Advocate photo via Bill Feig.

Mayor-President Kip Holden announces the Miss USA pageant will be held in Baton Rouge. Advocate photo via Bill Feig.

The two items were approved without discussion or debate Wednesday during a meeting at which the Metro Council hashed out a host of items — annexations, garbage contracts, neighborhood zoning disputes and industrial waste issues.

Officials announced last month that the Donald Trump-owned Miss USA pageant would be held in Baton Rouge’s River Center on June 8.

The $1.2 million approved Wednesday will go toward a wifi upgrade and other facility improvements at the River Center, including new concessions equipment. The $67,000 will cover security, janitorial and other labor expenses.

The River Center upgrades are outside of the incentive package offered to the pageant to help lure it to Baton Rouge. The $300,000 in incentives offered through Visit Baton Rouge include $50,000 for events to showcase Baton Rouge.

Mayor Kip Holden, who lobbied for the event to come here, said it will provide opportunity for national exposure.

According to Nielsen ratings, as reported by Variety, the 2013 Miss USA pageant had 5.5 million viewers nationally — down about 20 percent from the previous year. The pageant organization claims that millions more watch the pageant across the globe.