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Best of all worlds in Baton Rouge

Courtesy Baton Rouge CVB

When people think of visiting Louisiana, they often default to New Orleans. Geraldine Bordelon thinks they should be thinking of Baton Rouge.

The state’s second-largest city offers the best of all that Louisiana has to offer, the director of destination sales for Visit Baton Rouge says.

“It’s a nice little hub-and-spoke, a central location to experience all of Louisiana,” Bordelon said. “We have old and new. We have the culture. We have the food. We have casinos. We have the history, the nightlife and the hotels. It’s the best of all worlds.”

As the state capital, Baton Rouge hosts many state association and government meetings. Regional association business is also a niche. The city’s universities  —  Louisiana State University and Southern University  —  attract educational conferences and events. Baton Rouge also gets a significant number of room-nights from the state’s booming film and television industry, Bordelon said.

To keep up with its growing business, the Baton Rouge River Center recently expanded and renovated. The $19 million project added 22,000 square feet of prefunction space at the riverfront center by enclosing and renovating an open area between its arena and exhibition halls. Seven breakout rooms were also added, and two others were updated, giving the 200,000-square-foot property a total of 17 breakout rooms.

The center’s arena, performing-arts theater and exhibition halls add to its versatility. The arena’s 10,000 seats can be retracted, which opens 30,000 square feet of floor space. The performing-arts theater can seat about 1,900 people.

Four exhibition halls can be used separately or combined into two spaces that total 70,000 square feet and 23,000 square feet, respectively.

By this spring, a $17 million Downtown Hampton Inn and Suites will open. It will join three other downtown hotels: the Belle of Baton Rouge Casino and Hotel, the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center and the boutique 90-room Hotel Indigo.

“Hampton brings additional rooms to the downtown area; it gives us a fourth option in downtown, which is a very nice, walkable area,” Bordelon said.

The new Town Square, also downtown, has plazas, stages and green expanses for public events or private gatherings. Within the square, Galvez Plaza is a permanent special-event stage, and Beacon Plaza has a 35-foot multimedia tower. The space can be “rented and tented” during a convention or for a group event, Bordelon said.

“This square brings it all together,” she said. “It’s a really fun space.”