The New Orleans Arena was opened in October of 1999 adjacent to the Superdome in the Central Business District (CBD) of New Orleans. Though the arena was built as a multi-purpose facility capable of hosting the many various events from sporting to entertainment that frequent the New Orleans area, there’s little doubt that the venue’s sole purpose of construction was to entice the NBA to locate (or relocate) a franchise there. New Orleans had been without basketball since the Jazz left the city and their home venue of the Superdome after only five years in 1979 for Utah. Though the arena would open in 1999 as host to minor league hockey featuring the now defunct New Orleans Brass of the ECHL, the city and venue would secure the relocation of the Charlotte Hornets in 2002.
With the Jazz heading to Utah, New Orleans lost a nickname which identified closely with the city and region and Utah gained a name which didn’t fit at all. Brand development often creates these strange nickname-city misfits when franchises relocate. A leading reason for the fan-support struggle is thought to be that the nickname “Hornets” just doesn’t fit in with the New Orleans culture and will always feel like Charlotte’s team is temporarily in town. For that reason, it was announced in 2013 that the Hornets would be renamed as the Pelicans.
Regardless of the name, New Orleans’ NBA franchise will continue to call the decade-old and counting New Orleans Arena home. The arena’s construction cost about $114 million and developed a facility which sits atop 17,000 square feet and 70 feet tall. For NBA games, the listed capacity is approximately 18,500.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
One of the highlights of attending an NBA game at the New Orleans Arena is no doubt the concessions and drink options. Like its next door neighbor the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the arena offers some Cajun classics that few venues across the nation offer. The Cajun Corner dishes up alligator sausage ($9), crawfish pie ($7), and jambalaya ($9). Another unique stand is the Louisiana Seafood stand which offers fried shrimp, oyster, and catfish po'boys ($11.25-$13), fried shrimp and catfish platters ($12-$12.50), and side items like fried onion rings ($5.50) and fried pickles ($5).
At Crescent City Eats you'll find another unique item in the spinach and artichoke nachos. Other options include Balcony Bites (hot dogs), the Fowl Line and Stinger Wings (chicken strips and wings), Half Court Grille (hamburger and chicken sandwich),the Hole Hog Café (BBQ), Audubon Café and Winery (shrimp cocktail, ham and turkey sandwiches, chicken Caesar salad, and fruit/cheese platter), and the usual favorites like pizza, nachos, popcorn and more. You'll find several of the popular stadium fare stands offering up the same classics but under different names: The Cotton Exchange, Pontchartrain Market, River Bend, and Crescent City Eats.
When in New Orleans, there's little doubt you'll escape the city without a good drink and the arena offers a vast variety from select beers ($8.75-$9.50), cocktails, daiquiris, and wines. A local favorite and growing national brand, Abita Beer, runs a station in the arena as well. Your non-alcoholic beverages are Pepsi products and range from $4.25 to $6.25.
Though you'll pay a pretty high price for any of these items, the cost is pretty average across NBA venues as the high level of competition usually leads to outrageously priced concessions. At least in the case of the New Orleans Arena you'll likely find a unique and tasty item.
At the height of the Hornets stay in New Orleans, the atmosphere was pretty electric. Chris Paul, however, has moved on and the Hornets are rebuilding. New Orleans has rebounded by attracting some young talent with potential to develop together into something special over the next few years. When wins are piling up, the New Orleans Arena is a solid atmosphere for NBA action.
A unique arena tradition is the wrestling great Ric Flair "woo" when the team's star player scores. Flair's "woo" is played queued and fans respond with a "woo" of their own. The tradition began with Baron Davis and continued with Chris Paul after that. It's still a signature in-game tradition at the arena today.
The arena team does a great job with the pumped-in music which keeps the atmosphere entertaining regardless of what's happening on the court. The NBA is home to some of the most entertaining and appealing dance teams in all of sports and the Honeybees are no different. They're a conversation piece regardless of age or gender and will no doubt turn some heads.
Hugo the Hornet is just as entertaining for very different reasons. Not only is he very active in the stands interacting with fans but he's also a thrill on the court when he transforms into Super Hugo with special dunk showcases. Hugo has been named NBA "Best Mascot" twice and also has claimed the NBA Mascot Slam Dunk Championship three times.
Since the Jazz occupied the Superdome as a primary home during their short stay in New Orleans and considering that the arena is just a little over a decade old, there's not much historical reverence built up just yet. There are a few banners which hang from the rafters, however, including a retired "7" for Pistol Pete Maravich, "13" for Bobby Phills honoring his time as a Charlotte Hornet before his tragic death, and an NBA Southwest Division Champions Banner for their title in 2007-08.
When the New Orleans Arena was built in the late 90s, it was one of the better basketball venues in the nation. Since then, many other venues have upgraded to catch up and surpass the arena. The rim of the upper level is wrapped with video ribbon display technology, which at its installation time in 2002 was cutting edge. Such technology is now par for the course for NBA areas.
The center-hung scoreboard is equipped with two ribbon levels of display and eight small video boards creating a nice video view regardless of what corner of the arena you're located in. Compared to some of the new video boards coming out like the massive board in Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets, an upgrade is in store. There are also two small video boards at the top of the arena behind each end of the court. There are two levels of seating with suites and club seating in between.
Undoubtedly, the greatest strength of basketball in New Orleans is New Orleans itself. If you come to the Big Easy and leave without a bag full of memories, you're doing it wrong. The area is home to some of the best food, drinks, and entertainment anywhere in the world. Though the New Orleans Arena is located in the CBD, the French Quarter and Bourbon Street are just blocks away. There's an unlimited amount of amazing eats in New Orleans. To save space, I'll give you my version of a day in heaven.
Located at the edge of Jackson Square is the world famous Café Du Monde. Kick-off your day with an order of three French-style powdered donuts known as beignets and a café au lait (half steamed milk, half coffee). You'll likely be serenaded by a street corner musician while you eat. For lunch, head over to Dragos and order the best charbroiled oysters you'll ever taste. Wrap up the day with dinner at the Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter, also just at the edge of Jackson Square. The seafood gumbo is tourist favorite but just about anything on their menu is amazing.
While you're in the Jackson Square area, be sure to check out the square itself. There you'll meet a statue of President Jackson on a horse at the center of the square which is surrounded by a garden area. Both the Cabildo and St. Louis Cathedral are must-stops just to take in the architecture and artwork inside. A little down Decatur Street you'll find the French Market, which is a flea-market style shopping area. You're likely to find something interesting there at a bargain. There's not much I need to say other than you have to take a stroll down Bourbon Street. This is a great place to start your party off before the game and kick it into high gear after the game.
Since New Orleans is one of the top tourist spots in the world, the hotel options are plentiful. Again, to keep the list short, I'll give you two recommendations. You can usually find a great deal at Place d'Armes Hotel in the French Quarter. If you can't find a great deal at Place d'Armes, the Maison Dupuy is a guaranteed great stay and is also located in the French Quarter.
Though there's some quality young talent on the team, a sub-par record isn't going to get much attention in the Saints dominated headlines. It's unfair to compare the Hornets to their NFL neighbors considering there may be no other connection between a city and a professional sports team like it in the nation. It does feel, however, like the city uses up so much passion and energy on the Saints that it's hard to carry it over to the Hornets once the NFL season is over.
If a solid team could have been built around Chris Paul turning the Hornets into a perennial contender, it might have been possible to build an intense fanbase. Though a name change to the Pelicans might make the team feel more like New Orleans' own and less like a temporary club from Charlotte, establishing the kind of support needed for long term stability in the NBA will be a struggle in this area. Supporters can point, however, to the Chris Paul years and the consistent sell-outs as a sign of hope for the future.
Regardless of numbers, the fans that do show up are usually pretty engaged in the game and know when to cheer as well as when to be quiet. As mentioned, the "woo" when a star player scores is a pretty neat tradition and fans seem to love belting it out.
If there's a downside to hosting an NBA game in downtown New Orleans it's definitely access to the game. If you are arriving on gameday, expect a traffic delay. The most congested route is usually the most obvious which is I-10 to Hwy 90 then taking the Superdome exit and also I-10 to the Poydras Street exit. An alternate route that may save some time is to take Causeway to Airline which will turn into Tulane. This will lead you towards the Superdome with possibly less congestion.
Locating affordable parking in a spot that you're comfortable leaving your vehicle will be no easy task. The Superdome garage next door is between $20-$30 and is probably your best option. Other lots in the area will be available and may be as low as $10 on a good night.
It's really a breeze getting to the arena from the Superdome parking lot and even easier making your way inside. The ticket booths and gates are well managed and lines are relatively short. The concourses are large and spacious creating more than enough room to move around. You shouldn't have any problem with the seating aisles either, as there's enough space for those going both up and down at the same time. Restroom facilities are clean and there shouldn't be any lines as there are more than enough locations around the facility.
According to Team Marketing Report, the total cost of attendance for a New Orleans Hornets game is fifth least expensive out of all thirty NBA clubs in 2012 with average ticket prices around $30. You'll often find tickets for $10 or less for many of the non-marquee games on the schedule. Parking and concessions will certainly raise the cost some, but overall the ROI is very good. You'll get an NBA experience at a very high value. As the current core of young talent grows together, the on-court quality will rise as well.
Every great live sports experience is highlighted by certain 'extra' features which are unique compared other venues or make the overall experience memorable. For the New Orleans Arena, be sure to consider the following during your stadium experience:
When it comes to destination cities, you can't do much better than New Orleans. The French Quarter and Bourbon Street make the overall experience much higher quality.
The region's cuisine simply can't be replicated. You'll have to head to New Orleans for a Hornets game to partake in the seafood and Cajun dishes.
The low ticket prices really are a steal when you consider the level of play. I've attended low-quality NCAA DI basketball games for $10 and, this goes without saying, the quality is nowhere near what you'll find at a Hornets game. If you plan your trip out ahead of time, you really can get a great experience at a bargain.
Louisiana seafood and Cajun cuisine are both attractions of the New Orleans area, but are also attractions within the New Orleans Arena. Few venues across the nation offer such unique items as crawfish pie, shrimp poboys, and alligator sausage through their concessions.
When the Hornets are winning, the "woo" belted by fans when their team star scores is pretty unique. Ric Flair would be proud.
The New Orleans Arena seats up to 18,000 depending on the event. Regardless of the type and nature of the event, there are no seats that should be considered as "bad" seats. The sight lines are excellent, regardless of where you sit. The primary differences between the most expensive and least expensive seats are your proximity to the action in the event and the amount of leg and hip room in the seat. The New Orleans Arena provides a first-class experience and is definitely worthy of a visit. If only the team was better. Maybe next year.
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