Behind the scenes at Burton Complex

Director: Hosting events good for hotel, restaurant industries

By Gena Latrell

Billed as “Southwest Louisiana’s Premier Entertainment Complex,” the Burton Complex hosts everything from rodeos, concerts, crawfish boils, Mardi Gras balls and even a clinic where pig owners learn techniques to make their animals stand out at livestock shows. 

“No two days are the same,” said Jason Barnes, complex director since 2013. “You don’t know what new thing you’re going to see or what new hurdle you’re going to have to jump through to make an event happen.”

The facility, at 7001 Gulf Highway, is made up of three areas: the coliseum, the arena and the event barn. The 24,000-square-foot coliseum can seat up to 9,000 people. The 50,000-square-foot arena seats about 1,000 people. The 160,000-square-foot event barn boasts a four-acre roof.

Events are booked based on availability and “whoever calls,” according to Barnes.

“We try to do everything we can do to say yes before we say no,” he said. “The only time we turn down an event — usually — is if our facility doesn’t have the capability for that person’s or group’s event needs.”

The complex, owned by the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, is funded by a parish-wide property tax, facility rentals and fees. There are 12 full-time employees and 60 part-time employees.

“We have a team atmosphere here. At the Burton Complex, we feel that every member of our team is important — every member,” Barnes said. 

The complex’s busiest time is January through May. Events are currently scheduled for 311 days out of the year. Weekends are already booked into 2019, but Barnes said they will take more. 

For decades, the coliseum has hosted McNeese State University’s basketball programs — some of the most well-attended events. With McNeese building its own basketball arena, Barnes said they are “looking for new opportunities, new clients,” while “being grateful for and keeping our current ones.”

Hosting events at the complex benefits the local economy because visitors “stay at hotels and eat at area restaurants, Barnes said.

Barnes said a typical workday lasts from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., but that can change, depending on the event. He said the job, while fulfilling, can be a lot of work and includes meeting “clients’ needs, set up, scheduling or whatever it is.”

“We, the team here at the Burton Complex, do our best to make each event a success,” Barnes said.

Online: To find out about upcoming events, visit

This is the second in a series of stories focusing on the economic impact of event centers in Southwest Louisiana.

‘At the Burton Complex, we feel that every member of our team is important — every member.’

 Jason Barnes

Burton Complex director


Couples hit the dance floor at the 28th annual Cajun Music & Food Festival at the Burton Coliseum Complex  in July 2015. (Rick Hickman / American Press Archives)


Head on over to the 29th Annual Cajun Music & Food Festival July 15-16, 2016 at the Burton Coliseum Complex to get your fill of a variety of Cajun specialties! This festival aims to preserve the Cajun traditions and heritage through music, dancing, and food. Savory Cajun dishes including jambalaya, gumbo, cracklins and more will be in high supply at this event, along with raffles, a live auction, arts and crafts booths, cake walks and games for the kids. The event at Burton begins Friday, July 15, 2016, at 5:00 PM and features two Cajun Bands performing until the event closes at 11:00 PM. Saturday, July 16, 2016, the doors open at 8:00 AM with 5 Cajun Bands performing throughout the day and ends at 11:00 PM. The festival will end with a free Cajun mass on Sunday morning, July 17 at the CFMA Building on 3481 E Prien Lake Road. Find out more about this traditional Cajun event at or call (337) 540-6417.

Rick Hickman””

Sulphur High junior Rhett Goodner won two of three rounds to win the cutting championship on Tuesday at the Louisiana High School Finals Rodeo at the Burton Complex in Lake Charles (Rodrick Anderson/American Press)


Anacoco Indians are all smiles after winning the Class B Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys’ Top 28 Basketball Tournament at Burton Complex in Lake Charles

Roddy Johnson


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