Sowela project

An artist’s rendering shows what the planned center for culinary, gaming and hospitality training will look like on the campus of Sowela in Lake Charles. The project is expected to cost about $10.2 million.

SOWELA Chancellor Dr. Neil Aspinwall spoke at the West Cal Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday about the $10.2 million culinary, gaming and hospitality center planned for its main campus in Lake Charles.

The news was announced last week by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. Work is scheduled to begin at the end of this year completion is projected for mid-2020.

The center is a response the hospitality industry’s demand for skilled workers, a demand shared by successful gaming and resorts, in addition to an influx of population into Calcasieu Parish.

“Last year the amount of  revenue generated by the gaming industry outpaced the revenue generated by oil and gas for the first time in history in Louisiana,” Aspinwall said. “And Southwest Louisiana is leading that charge.”

According to Louisiana Workforce Commission projections, by 2024, the gaming sector in the Lake Charles region is expected to increase by 15.7 percent, compared to a projected increase of just two percent in petroleum and coal manufacturing.

SOWELA’s Chancellor said that despite the abundance of jobs and revenue brought to the area by its gaming facilities, until now no one has offered training in those fields in the region. The new center, the first of its kind in Southwest Louisiana, aims to fill that void.

Aspinwall said the center will train in the front of house positions like dealers, customer service, and culinary. It will also train for behind the scenes positions like accounting, surveillance, business management and office systems, computer networking, maintenance and housekeeping.

The funding mechanism for the project is outlined in ACT 360, a statewide initiative authorized by lawmakers in 2013, to improve the state’s community and technical college facilities.

Applicants must cover 12 percent of the construction cost. SOWELA’s new Student Services Building was also an Act 360 project. SOWELA successfully raised the $1.2 million needed to meet their commitment.