By LUKE JOHNSON
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
LSU fans planning to celebrate what could potentially be one of the best recruiting classes in LSU history at the 2014 Bayou Bash will have to do so in some new digs.
The RobinsonBrothers.com/Tiger Gridiron Club Bayou Bash, an annual fundraising event on National Signing Day, will be held at the L’Auberge Casino Event Center, ending a seven-year run at the Baton Rouge River Center. The Event Center is located above the casino floor near the hotel.
The move had a two-part purpose, as sagging interest and rising costs – not only from a venue perspective -- prompted a change.
"Part of the reason is that (L’Auberge) is giving us the location gratis,” said Chuck Goodwin, President of the Tiger Gridiron Club and Chairman of the Board. "But we’ve been struggling to get food donated in the past few years. It’s just been a tight economy. We had real good support from all our vendors, but we’ve bought food the past few years.
"The costs have been going up and this kind of stabilizes our costs.”
By stabilizing the costs, Bayou Bash organizers had to sacrifice the open environment that’s been a part of the Bash in its previous 17 years.
Because of limited seating in the L’Auberge Event Center, there will be no general admission tickets to the main area of the 2014 Bash. Roughly 800 seats will be available in the Event Center, with 300 reserved for Gridiron Club members and 500 serving as VIP seats.
Non-Gridiron Club members can purchase a table, which seats 10 and includes food and drink throughout the event, in the VIP area for $1,500 or $2,000. Purchasing a membership in the Gridiron Club ($350/year) will also grant access to the Event Center.
Goodwin hopes that despite the lack of general admission to the main show, there will still be enough attractions outside the Event Center to both get fans to come and keep them interested.
Everything that is happening inside the Event Center, including National Signing Day coverage, will be broadcast throughout L’Auberge. Former LSU players will also be signing autographs and conducting Q&A sessions outside the event center at The Edge near the back of the casino floor and vendors will be located immediately outside the Event Center.
The other main change to this year’s bash is the 10:30 a.m. start time, which was pushed back two hours from the usual 8:30 a.m. start. The event ends at 6:30 p.m.
"When we first started the Bash, nobody signed until that morning and you got (commitments) coming in all day long,” Goodwin said. "Now most of them are in by the time the Bash started at 8:30. There’s less spontaneous stuff going on, so we’re trying to get it to be a shorter day with more stuff packed in there.”
Inside the Event Center, Goodwin said this year’s bash will have higher-quality screens to watch highlights from incoming recruits, ESPN recruiting analysis and LSU football highlights from previous seasons. The screens are coming courtesy of L’Auberge.
As the event draws to a close, the customary performances from the LSU band and cheerleaders will lead to the finale – LSU coach Les Miles addressing the fans at 5:30. The doors to the Event Center will open to everyone immediately before Miles recaps his recruiting class.
"We’re going to fit as many people as we can into the areas that are available for standing room,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin hopes the change in venue – combined with the possibility of an unheard of recruiting haul for LSU -- will bring about more excitement than rancor for an event that’s seen decreasing attendance and buzz in recent years.
"We’re trying to spice up the Bash because everybody says we’re doing the same thing every year,” Goodwin said. "We’re giving people a chance to come see a new venue.”
L’Auberge, which is a corporate sponsor of LSU, approached organizers to suggest their venue as a host site. The offer to host the Bash free of charge made it especially interesting.
Goodwin declined to say the specific amount the River Center charged to host previous Bayou Bash fundraisers, but he did say the Gridiron Club would save a significant amount of money by changing locations, allowing it to focus on its primary objective: raising funds for the football team.
While he expects some not to be pleased with the change, Goodwin said something needed to be done to right a ship taking on some water.
"We anticipate some grumbling and some unhappiness, but hopefully they understand that we’re really trying to do things to better football operations,” Goodwin said. "It’s a fundraiser for them.”
Here’s the official press release from the Gridiron Club:
The RobinsonBrothers.com/Tiger Gridiron Club 18th Bayou Bash Recruiting Party is being held on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 at L’auberge Casino Event Center. Doors will be open at 10:30 a.m.
Due to limited seating capacity in the Event Center, only tables seating ten will be available in the Event Center for $1,500-$2,000 each, which includes food and beverages throughout the event. Call Ed Fisher at (225) 767-7699 for availability of these tables. Membership in the Gridiron Club is available by calling Beth Tope at (225) 819-0128 and this membership will allow free admittance to the event.
Free viewing of the Bash will be available throughout the Casino. Celebrities and former players will be conducting interviews, Q&A and autograph signings throughout the casino during the day. Media outlets will be set up in the Stadium Club and there will be recruiting coverage by ESPN. A silent auction area will be available to anyone attending the event along with booths with LSU items for sale and a raffle of LSU items.
The event includes a highlight film of the 2013 season, other game films, up to the minute announcement of receipt of recruits’ letters of intent, coaches and former players speaking. LSU coach Les Miles will speak to the audience at 5:30 p.m. about his recruiting class. This is preceded by the LSU Golden Band, cheerleaders, Mike the Tiger and Golden Girls.