SBD/September 20, 2011/Facilities

Architects To Tour New Orleans Arena Tomorrow To Develop Renovation Ideas

A group of architects is expected to tour 12-year-old New Orleans Arena tomorrow to get ideas for developing a master plan to renovate the venue. SMG, the company managing the arena for the Louisiana Sports & Exposition District, issued a proposal about three weeks ago to nine firms with sports facility experience. Officials from six firms will participate in the tour and attend an initial meeting for the project, according to SMG Senior VP/Stadiums & Arenas Doug Thornton. The goal is to renovate the arena and generate incremental revenue for the arena's NBA tenant, the Hornets. New premium seat options and digital technology could be part of the plan. The Hornets' lease runs through the '13-14 season, and the master plan will play a key role in talks between the club and SMG for extending the agreement, Thornton said. The NBA currently owns a majority interest in the Hornets. "We are looking at some long-range capital planning," Thornton said. "We have no idea what that would mean in terms of cost, whether it is $35 million or $40 million. The master plan will give us a blueprint toward what could be done in the next two to five years to upgrade the facility and keep it competitive with other NBA facilities with all the modern technology and features." SMG expects to hire an architect by late October, with a master plan completed by the first quarter of '12, Thornton said. The source of funding to pay for the arena upgrades has not been decided but could include state money, he said. The most recent renovations to the arena came in '02, the year the Hornets moved to New Orleans from Charlotte. Aecom, formerly Ellerbe Becket, designed a $25M face lift covering 12 additional suites and a new restaurant, among other new features. New Orleans Arena opened in '99 without a major league sports tenant.
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