Smoothie King Center exterior undergoing major changes

by Jim Eichenhofer

Over the past 12-plus months, New Orleans’ NBA franchise has undergone dramatic changes, including the unveiling of a new nickname, colors, logos and uniforms. This summer, it’s time for the team’s home arena to also benefit from a brand-new look.

In Phase II of a two-year renovation project at the Smoothie King Center, the venue will receive a long-awaited, updated color scheme on its exterior.

In addition, construction is under way on a grand entrance that will be completed during this basketball offseason. Other major 2014 summer improvement projects include an expanded team store that will double in size from its previous location; a 2,000-square-foot sports bar on the main concourse above the new entrance; an expanded box office located next to the main entrance; an exterior lighting package; and an LED board above the main entryway.

After a Phase I that largely consisted of interior renovations to the Smoothie King Center, current construction will be significantly more noticeable to those who attend Pelicans home games in 2014-15.

“This phase will affect everyone who attends a game,” said Ed Lang, Pelicans senior vice president and chief financial officer. “The new grand entryway will directly affect about 80 percent of our fans (who’ve entered the building through the previous Girod Street entrance in the past). The expanded box office will make it a faster process for fans to pick up will-call tickets or purchase tickets before a game. “Through Adidas, the larger team store will have a wider selection of merchandise and products for fans.”

A detailed look at several of the major renovations that are taking place at the Smoothie King Center this summer:

Color Change To Exterior

Smoothie King Center opened in 1999, but its exterior bluish-green color is more reminiscent of 1970s-era design.

“It will be a much improved look over the current appearance of the building,” Lang said.

The repainting will be completed prior to the 2014-15 NBA season.

Grand Entryway

Not only will the main entrance be considerably larger, featuring more open space for fans once they’re inside, but it will be shifted toward the corner of Girod Street and Le Rouge Lane. That enabled the Pelicans to add more square footage to the entryway.

“It will be a two-story atrium,” Lang said. “That should add much more light to the entryway, based on the way it’s configured.”

Smoothie King Center interior renovationsWhen the Smoothie King Center first opened for the then-Hornets in ‘02, team officials anticipated that most basketball fans would enter at the second level (as Saints fans do for games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome), but in reality, the vast majority have instead gone in at the Girod Street level. That partly necessitated the expansion and improvement of what had unexpectedly become the facility’s primary entrance for NBA games.

Box Office

The box office is shifting from its previous location on Girod to being set up right next to the main entrance, along Le Rouge Lane. It will also be much larger, which will result in shorter wait times in line for Pelicans fans.

“In the past, the box office has been kind of tucked into the back of the building,” Lang said. “It’s a very small area that could get very crowded. We’re relocating the box office just to the side of the front entryway. It will be able to accommodate more people, which will allow us to get more people in and out, through will call and single-game purchases.”

Adidas Team Store

“It’s going to be almost double in size from what it currently is,” Lang said. “It will greatly expand the merchandise that we carry in the store.”

The store is also undergoing a major makeover. Located near the new main entrance, fans will be able to see the store as they enter the building. The store will feature a glass wall, allowing Adidas to more effectively and visibly display items.

Second-Level Sports Bar

The 2,000-square-foot bar will feature inside seating and an outdoor balcony that overlooks the eastern side of the Smoothie King Center, allowing fans a view toward Champions Square and downtown New Orleans. It can be accessed from inside the arena or the Superdome level and is open to anyone who has purchased a ticket to the game.

Construction has already begun on several aspects of the project. Through early August, the Smoothie King Center remains open for business and will be hosting numerous events, including concerts and New Orleans VooDoo football games. Following a Justin Timberlake concert Aug. 4, the building will close for two months in order to wrap up renovations, but will re-open in October (a Katy Perry concert is slated for Oct. 8). The first Pelicans event in their renovated home building likely will be a home preseason game in mid-October.