SBD/October 22, 2013/Facilities

Pelicans Say Upgrades At New Orleans Arena Focus On Improving Fan Experience

Lauscha says some of the arena's new features won't be major revenue drivers
Fans at the Pelicans' preseason home opener tomorrow will get their first glimpse of "a newly renovated interior of the New Orleans Arena that gives the 14-year-old facility a completely different look," according to John Reid of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. There are 16 new loge boxes in the lower bowl that include "swivel seating and LED monitors" and are "already sold out for the upcoming season." There also is a new "party perch in the upper bowl," where the Pelicans are "considering adding live entertainment that could include a band playing during games." All of the arena's concession stands have "been upgraded with more food options." A new "spacious 12,000 square foot Chairman's Club has been built with glass windows overlooking the hallway across from the Pelicans' locker room" that will accommodate 150 front-row season-ticket holders. The arena's Capital One club has been "expanded and will include a new wine room and an existing bar will expand to the club's outdoor patio and include a fire fountain." The renovations are part of a $50M upgrade that is "scheduled to be done in two phases." Interior work "started May 1 and completely shut down the Arena for the entire summer," while exterior renovations are "expected to start in the spring." Pelicans President Dennis Lauscha said, "Some things we put in may not have a gigantic revenue return, but we knew we had to do it for fan experience." SMG Senior VP/Stadiums & Arenas Doug Thornton said, "The architects wanted to achieve what they call an urban loft look, where you see a lot of exposed concrete, very modern sleek furnishes and clean lines in the building as opposed to what we had before which was designed back in the mid-90s. It makes it a little more fresh and modern than in the past" (NOLA.com, 10/21).

FEATHER IN THEIR CAP: In Baton Rouge, Darrell Williams writes the arena's upgrades are "eye-opening, like going from black-and-white to color." Lauscha said, "Before these renovations took place, I’d say the old New Orleans Arena was about in the bottom third of the (NBA). Now, it’s probably in the top part of all the league’s arenas." Williams notes the second phase of renovations will involve "up to 25,000 feet of expansion, and a new foyer area will be the centerpiece" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 10/22). In New Orleans, Jimmy Smith noted the arena was "built for the modest sum" of $114M in '99 and that the first phase of this year's renovations was a $30M project. The improvements were "funded by the State of Louisiana" and will allow Owner Tom Benson "the earning power necessary within the building to alleviate the need for state subsidies that the team received" prior to his purchase in '12 (NOLA.com, 10/21).

SHOP 'TIL YOU DROP: The Pelicans and adidas yesterday announced a new retail partnership, which includes an exclusive team store at New Orleans Arena. adidas will operate the 3,000-square-foot shop, the brand's first store in New Orleans. The shop will be located on the main concourse level and will be open Tuesday-Saturday when the arena is not holding an event. Six additional adidas Pelicans merchandise stands will be located throughout the arena (Pelicans).
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