Louisiana College Opens $10.8M Culinary, Gaming and Hospitality Center
LAKE CHARLES, La. – With Gov. John Bel Edwards and other state dignitaries on hand during a Feb. 28 ribbon-cutting ceremony, Sowela Technical Community College officially opened its new Culinary, Gaming and Hospitality Center on its main campus in Lake Charles. Construction for the new $10.8 million building began in 2021 with the facility completed earlier this year. The building was constructed to greatly expand Sowela’s hospitality programs and educate hospitality workers throughout the state as that sector of jobs is expected to increase in Louisiana by 14.9% by 2026 according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
“Sowela’s new state-of-the-art Hospitality and Tourism center is a shining example of the world-class career training provided by the Louisiana Technical and Community College System,” said Edwards. “We know that when we invest in our community and technical colleges, we’re investing in economic growth and job creation. My administration has been committed to funding and expanding access to our community and technical colleges through initiatives like the MJ Foster Promise Program. I want to encourage everyone in Southwest Louisiana interested in working in our booming hospitality sector to contact Sowela and learn more about the opportunities available to them.”
The new 28,000-square-foot building features a culinary kitchen, model hotel rooms and an event space. The Culinary, Gaming and Hospitality Center was designed by the architecture firm of Champeaux, Evans and Hotard, and construction was completed at the end of 2022.
Sowela’s Culinary, Gaming and Hospitality Center will provide high-demand education and training for students seeking a job in Louisiana’s booming hospitality industry, which in 2022 was estimated to have more than 222,000 employees statewide according to Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s office. The primary focus is to provide hands-on training for culinary arts, business administration and information systems technology fields of study along with a dealer school and custom training opportunities.
The goal of the Culinary, Gaming and Hospitality Center is to help fill Louisiana Workforce Commission-rated four-star hospitality occupations in Louisiana’s economy. In 2021, the state’s tourism industry accounted for 41 million visitors who spent $16.8 billion according to the Louisiana Travel Association. The gaming industry in Louisiana brought in more than $3 billion according to the Lieutenant Governor’s 2022 annual report.
“Sowela’s new Culinary, Gaming, and Hospitality Center will provide the means to supply a skilled and qualified workforce for the expanding culinary, gaming, and hospitality industry in Southwest Louisiana. Southwest Louisiana is well known for the petro-chemical industry, but in the last several years, the gaming and hospitality industry has greatly expanded and along with the present culinary workforce needs, the industry is desperate for additional workers,” said Sowela Chancellor Dr. Neil Aspinwall. “Sowela is in the workforce development business so this new training facility is a direct response to those needs so we will continue to work with our industry partners and do what we do best — design, develop, and implement the training programs that will produce the workforce needed.”
In addition to its hospitality programs, Sowela offers more than 30 technical and academic programs including Practical Nursing, Machine Tool Technology, Culinary Arts, Drafting and Design Technology, Surgical Technology, Accounting Technology and Forest Technology.
Sowela was recently named No. 1 community college in Louisiana by Niche. Sowela is also nationally recognized as a “Great College to Work For” by the Great Colleges to Work For program and ranked #36 on the “Top 100 Community Colleges in America” by Stacker.