Renovating the New Orleans Arena

Published: February 21, 2012

We take a look at what is being done to renovate the New Orleans Arena. What are some of the things that you, our readers, would like to see?

The New Orleans Arena has always been the little brother of the Superdome. What could be done to bring it up to par?

The NBA has been built on a foundation of on court drama and excitement as well as the off-court, game day experience. Fans walk through the turnstiles, kids look up at their parents to take them to the merchandise store and fathers/mothers purchase overpriced beer. This is professional sports and nobody seems to care, except the people that own these organisations.

Part of this experience has been the improvement and renovations of the buildings with which these athletes play in. Jerry Jones built a stadium that the Romans could only ever dream about. Madison Square Garden is currently a mix between a building site and local watering hole for crazed sports fans. David Stern takes a team away from a city if he doesn’t get the funding he needs for a modern day arena (A hat-tip to our friends in the North-West region).

The NBA and the service it provides have changed. In order to remain competitive it must improve its arenas. This brings us to the New Orleans Arena (I wish we could name it after Seafood). After moving back from Oklahoma City in 2008 the Hornets had to make concerted efforts to reconnect with the fan base.  Pushing for tickets, corporate sponsorships among other things has been a priority.

Recently Hornets President Hugh Weber said in a Hornets247 podcast that, “unfortunately there are no backseats, everything is in the front seat, everything is a priority. And our TV deal is just one of the other things we’ve been working through.” The same could be said about renovations to the New Orleans Arena.

Of September last year a group of architects toured the arena to get ideas for redevelopment. These were all from a number of firms to gather their plans and submit them to SMG (company who manages the arena). The goal of the renovation is to create a stronger capital growth for the Hornets and will surely be a big key to the next lease agreement between the Hornets and the state.

It appears that the NO Arena is next on SMG’s checklist to promote growth for the tenant while also reducing operating costs.

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. —Don Murrett, SportsBusiness Daily

Big picture this has repercussions for the Hornets and their viability within the city of New Orleans. David Stern has always valued State cooperation as one of the keys to a city keeping (or receiving) an NBA franchise. This renovation is an extension of that and it’s been noted over his tenure that Stern loves a good renovation.

The Comissioner loves to deliberate about the number of new suites, new big-screens and audio systems, updated technology and new architectural rendering. It was way of boasting the NBA’s continued growth and commitment to a region. It’s a way of saying that, “Hey we’re better than the competition.”

Aside from NBA politics and goals, this can be something that will surely keep the Hornets in New Orleans for a long time to come.

So what things would we like to see from a renovated Arena?

  • New Audio System

The current system is adequate, but going to other stadiums you really notice a big difference in the audio systems. The quality and trajectory needs to be improved.

  • Hornets Square

Encouraging restaurants, bars and other businesses to set up shop around the Arena is a must. It will get people to come into the game before hand and get them to stay after. Remember to keep it classy and not tacky though.

  • Improving the Suites and Luxury Boxes

Part of the arena improvements always demanded by David Stern is more and better luxury boxes. This is because the NBA is a business and getting them to use the NBA and partner with them is what they’re all about. Showing both in and out of state businesses the benefits of the Hornets is what is needed, reflecting this through better suites and luxury boxes is how it’s done.

What other things would you like to see improved by the New Orleans Arena? What do you think could improve your experience on gameday?


  1. hornetshornets

    February 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Is there any way we can get LED lights similar to the Superdome’s? That seems like something that would make the Arena look a lot better from the outside (not a fan of the aqua blue color). At night, I sometimes don’t even notice the Arena with the Superdome all lit up.

    On the inside, I would like to see some cup holders in the seats, improved audio, and maybe wifi or some app to check the hornets stats in the game (I get poor reception in the arena as well).

    • James Grayson

      February 21, 2012 at 5:04 pm

      You’re right about the reception, I definitely had the same problem on my lone journey. Wi-Fi is a must, all modern day meeting places have it and it’s a shame that there’s no free Wi-Fi offered.

      As for the outside I think it also needs to be redone as well as lights installed.

      Should be interesting to see how they get things done making it look appealing as well as technologically sound.

      • Jason Calmes

        February 21, 2012 at 5:53 pm

        Wifi may be a bit of a way off . . . wifi for 18000 people (maybe) will be a penny, and this doesn’t seem to be common.

        The reception issue I’ve dug in about. Part of it has to do with ATT being so saturated down here, due to the Cingular heritage, and its BellSouth heritage (keep going, find the circle). That many people at once just overload the existing structure. That’s one reason the service is `punctuated’ at times, just like in the Dome.

        Verizon brings out mobile facilities to help out on a Saints’ game day. Other carriers have less penetration, so there’s less competition, but things are spotty still. My informal poll shows that service is inversely related to market pentration, so I believe these explanations I got from the carrier (not the Hornets, Arena, or SMG).

  2. Carlo

    February 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    The outside should be completely redone. The green color looks terrible. A new look on the outside would go a longggg way.

  3. Jude Gilbert

    February 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    I would like to see it reflect the Super Dome outside materials for a more cohesive look between the two but definitely with a modern, sleek facade. Technology advances. It’s definitely prime time for NBA All-Star games with its location to everything downtown. Simply make it state of the art inside and out.

  4. Daniel Nelson

    February 21, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    I agree with the idea of improving the sound quality. I am not sure if it is just the system itself or the actually girl making the announcements but at times you cant even understand what she is saying.

  5. KC NOLA

    February 21, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    I love the idea of 4-5 restaurants (i.e. New Orleans Food and Spirit, Voodoo Bar-B-Que, New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood and other restaurants that are not to high class or expensive but have a nice look)and bars (i.e. New Orleans Daiquiris and Tropical Isle (hand grenades) and another bar)setting up shop around the arena and dome. If possible make that whole area a sports complex like the one they are trying to make in L.A. The inside is ok maybe a few changes like in the super dome (I.e. glasswalls at the lower levels, movie theater style seats)

  6. neitzelbaby12

    February 22, 2012 at 12:42 am

    This is really small but some of the shops upstairs have $12 mini basketballs compared to the big store down stairs(the name escapes me)are only $10.Im just wondering

  7. Uptown Sammy

    February 22, 2012 at 12:44 am

    HD centerhung screens, about every team is High def the Hornets should be.

  8. Mr. West

    February 22, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Just re do the whole outside of the arena. The inside is atleast serviceable, but we have the worst looking arena in the league, especially when its next to the beautiful superdome.

    I would love the whole resurants and bars around the arena also, but IMO a facelift should be priority number 1.

  9. dallashornetfan

    February 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Definitely a new outside facade something modern like the AA in Dallas perhaps but compliments the Superdome

  10. buckets o' love

    February 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    definitely agree about an exterior facelift (the blue subway tiles just can’t be taken seriously), and better lighting – although I think one of the problems with the exterior actually has to do with how the front entrance faces the bowels of the Superdome (huge loading bays, cooling towers, employee entrance) – it’s all kind of a dead zone, and Champions Square is a bit too far away to really make much of a difference – not sure how to fix this issue, honestly, but maybe the State can make do on all the talk about building a new practice facility and put one next to the arena, right in the southern parking lot which could make a more fan friendly (and visually appealing) fan zone there

  11. David

    February 22, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Champions square will have to be part of the hornets plans. Those new permanant bars and restaurants will not want competition from another “hornets square” located less than 2 blocks away. That surface lot next to the suite entrance will be the new home of an adjacent practice facility, IMO. Club renovations will almost definitely be a part of the lease agreement. An exterior facelift is also a must. I have been in favor of a partial rebrand, preferably capitalizing on the carnival dynamic which is unique to new Orleans and allow the common new orleanian to embrace the franchise. Purple, green, and gold colors will allow for a ton of revenue for the new owner, as well as converting to the fleur de bee as our primary logo w the Nola horn as our secondary logo and finally put the goofy Hugo logo out of it’s misery. That would include removing the blue/green aqua colors completely from the arena and franchise. Upgrading the sound system and LED lighting are also a must, in order for it complement the dome on the skyline of the city. Obviously, benson buying the team makes the most sense. He is already invested in the area w champ square, benson tower, and the dome – and by tying his investment wFOX into a new TV contract, hopefully with Fox Southwest, he will be able to “extend his empire.”. He has a business savvy heir in place w Rita, who is well schooled in the business of professional sports and is dedicated to the area. Getting Chouest on board as a minority owner would be ideal. Benson has been willing to spend money and let his execs make the personel decisions in the past, and I don’t see why this would change. Getting a local in place as an owner is a must. The population will be skeptical of any outsider, and support would be significantly less, IMO.

    • Jason Calmes

      February 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      Agreed about Champions Square. I was asking the team about this over the summer and got a more detailed answer than someone who’d never thought deeply about it would have given. Very detailed stuff, like specific mentions of sponsors that conflict.

      The rest of it is dressing, keeping the NBA happy, keeping up, spit shine.

      Champions Square is the key.

      God bless that motherf#@%ing Super Bowl.

  12. Ray

    February 22, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Completely agree with all the recommendations to upgrade the Arena, the most telling being the sound system….it’s simply awful and you can hardly understand what anyone is saying over it. been one of my major complaints since I’ve started going to the games. Would like to see more concessions and vendors with better quality items and food at slightly more affordable prices,,though I doubt that will happen.If anything the prices will go up to help cover the cost of renovations. Would love to see an enhanced Beer garden for the season ticket holders in stead of being corralled like a bunch of cattle out front before the games as well .My concern though is it took a Superbowl win and the awarding of hosting a Superbowl to the city for the renovations to the Dome to come about. Will it take an NBA championship trophy to do the same for the Arena? And who exactly will pay for these upgrades besides of course the ticket holders in the form of higher prices on everything? Is the State or city in a position to fund these renovations?

    • Jason Calmes

      February 22, 2012 at 5:18 pm

      The state has money set aside for making improvements to state assets. Either way, when the state pays, we pay.

      Prices always go up anyway, and this will just be one reason for one price increase there and part of the constant tax streams that you see or not.

      It didn’t take a Super Bowl win . . . it took a long term lease to rennovate a state asset for the tenant. Why rennovate when the tenant is a short timer?

  13. Bonaparte

    February 25, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Those of you criticizing the exterior of the Arena need to take a design or architecture class sometime. For an arena built on the (relative) cheap, it’s a fine looking facade.

    The Superdome is an historical architectural gem. A masterpiece of American architecture that could never be duplicated or done justice trying to “link” the Arena to it.

    It’s similar to Pei’s famous pyramid in front of the Louvre in Paris. You can’t even try to compete, so go entirely different. The Arena is a sweet little gem next to a masterpiece. The outside is fine, and if you disagree you basically don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • donnie

      April 16, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      Uh, in your opinion, maybe, but I happen to agree that it should at least be done in the same material as the dome with the entrance more grand than what is there now. What would work best is if they could tear down that hiddeous garage blocking the view beside the Hyatt. Open that area up…in my opinion.

  14. Ty Martin

    March 5, 2012 at 9:30 am

    we have one of the smallest arena’s in the NBA with a loud croud (18,500) compared to the averaged NBA arnea (19,200) if we add more seats we would have a better atmosphere for the players and maybe generate more wins for the team

  15. whodat504

    March 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    The biggest need is getting more lower bowl seats. How easy that is, I have no idea as I am not an engineer. Most people don’t want to sit above suites in the balcony. The Arena has way too many seats up high and we need to make sure to add more lower level seats.

  16. apple

    March 14, 2012 at 3:52 am

    The audio system is HORRIBLE! We’ve had corner lower bowl tickets since 2002 and can’t understand what the announcers say and the music sounds like jumbled noise. It really needs to be fixed!

  17. nolathinker

    March 20, 2012 at 8:47 am

    I too wonder of the challenge of Champions Square with its distance from the Arena. Although I think a new practice facility could make that distance shorter. My biggest issue is the Pontchartrain Expressway side of the building. It is arguably the most seen side of the building and the most unappealing. I would love to see those awful aqua blue-green tiles taken out and a glass entrance put in, like on the Superdome side. Then just put the employee entrance all on the north side (that closest to I-10). That me is essential, doing something with the Expressway side.

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