Eunice's historic Liberty Theatre has not hosted a concert since the fall of 2019. That could soon change thanks to a bill that's now on President Joe Biden's desk.

On Thursday, the United States Senate unanimously approved a bill transferring ownership of the century-old theatre's annex from the National Parks Service to the city of Eunice. The House of Representatives approved the bill on March 16 by a 422-4 margin.

Local preservationists, tourism officials, musicians, and others have spent the last two years not only drawing up plans for the renovations at the century-old music hall, but also working with Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Minden) and Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-Madisonville) to draw up legislation that would transfer the National Park Service's share of the property to local hands.

“The Liberty Theatre has been a staple of Louisiana’s Cajun community for nearly a century," Rep. Johnson said after the House vote. "It has hosted famed Cajun musicians and served as an important center of Louisiana culture and tourism. With a proper restoration, this special landmark can be enjoyed for generations to come."

The National Park Service owns the section of the Liberty Theatre that was built in the last few decades to provide a handicap-accessible entrance to the venue. Because of the federal government owns part of the venue, renovation efforts could not begin without federal approval. A new HVAC system is among the upgrades preservationists say the venue needs.

This would not be the first time the Liberty Theatre experienced a renovation. The Savoy musical family led the effort in the 1980s to restore the venue and reopen it after it had been shuttered for decades. Since then, the Liberty Theatre has been a go-to location for Cajun music enthusiasts, especially on Saturday nights for the Rendez-vous des Cajuns concert and radio broadcast.

Preservationists say they are applying for grants to pay for the renovations. They also say they've received donations to help pay for the work. The leaders behind the project say they expect the renovation project to cost around $3 million--around $2 million more than they have collected so far.

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