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Official Review by Paul Donaldson, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Getting ready for a Voodoo experience? No, we're not talking about the Voodoo Fest or a trip to Marie Laveau's, we're talking Arena Football in the Graveyard at the Smoothie King Center. The New Orleans Voodoo offer a family centered atmosphere and a high scoring brand of indoor football, perfect for those hard-core NFL fans looking to bridge the off-season or groups in search of family-friendly sporting events.
The Voodoo have called New Orleans and the Smoothie King Center (formerly the New Orleans Arena) home since 1999. Though the franchise has teetered on the edge of becoming defunct over the last few years, hard-core Voodoo fans continue to passionately support their team and hope the brand experiences growth. Though crowds may be a little more sparse than the Voodoo and the AFL would like, you’ll still find a highly entertaining and an action-packed experience for both young and old.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The Smoothie King Center comes equipped with a wide variety of concession items, and as one may expect from a New Orleans experience, an assortment of beverages. Concession offerings are a strong suit for the overall Voodoo experience with plenty of quality beverage items, variety in concession options, and a few unique items like the Chicken and Artichoke Mac from Geaux Mac, which is my personal recommendation. Though the $11 price tag is tough to swallow, you'll get a good sized serving and a unique taste. I would also recommend hanging out at the Crown Royal bar prior to kickoff and at halftime.
Other options range from more traditional stadium fare like hot dogs and nachos to NOLA favorites like red beans and rice, jambalaya, and even alligator sausage. If that's not enough, you'll also find pizza, barbecue, smoothies (it is the Smoothie King Center) and much more.
With all this variety comes a pretty hefty price tag, but in a range similar to what you'd expect at other NBA-centered arenas. Hot dogs will run you $5.75 for the basic dog, sodas are $6.75 for a large and $4.50 for a regular size, and popcorn is $5.
A Voodoo game at the Smoothie King Center is a family oriented and entertaining experience. As with most Arena Football games, you'll feel right on top of the action and some fans can actually reach out and touch the players, though this would be ill-advised. If you can afford to, avoid sitting in the end zone seats. The view behind the nets certainly isn't the best in the arena.
Personally, I found the seats along the upper portion of the first seating tier near the goal line to have a good panoramic view of the field and to also allow you to experience touchdowns up-close. If you have the extra cash, the most entertaining seats are no doubt right along the sidelines where you just might be greeted by a player coming over the sideline wall. The upper deck seating levels are closed off to fill in the first level.
The in-game entertainment is top notch. The Voodoo are intentional in never allowing a down moment throughout the game. Whether it's a t-shirt toss or a Voodoo Doll racing in inflatable rolling balls, there will always be something to keep your attention. Speaking of the Voodoo Dolls, they also rarely have a down moment. While some cheerleaders or dance teams seem to disappear between performances, the Voodoo Dolls are constantly dancing behind the end zone wall and are involved in almost every on-field event throughout the game. The team mascots, Mojo and Bones, are also very engaging.
Fans arriving with a little extra time prior to kickoff can enjoy pre game activities outside the arena. Though the festivities may vary from game to game, you'll likely entertained by a local live band, an inflatable jump house (for the kids) and a few other items.
It's hard to beat being located in the heart of New Orleans. From the Smoothie King Center, some of the world's best food, drinks, and entertainment are located just blocks away. If you park at the Superdome, I wouldn't recommend making the walk to some of the more pedestrian friendly areas like the French Quarter, but they are actually within walking distance. There are an unlimited set of choices within the area, so I'll recommend a few that are affordable but still give you a good taste of New Orleans. For the best charbroiled oysters anywhere, try Drago's at 841 Iberville in the CBD (Central Business District). In the French Quarter, grab a tasty bowl of gumbo at the Gumbo Shop on 630 Saint Peter. For great fried seafood, check out Deanie's on 841 Iberville (though the original is the best in Bucktown). For a light breakfast (or to end a late night), try the famous beignets and café au lait at Café du Monde
Obviously for entertainment, there's the Bourbon Street or the French Quarter overall. A lesser known area within the French Quarter is Frenchmen Street, which is famous for live music and jazz clubs.
There's a plethora of hotel and lodging options in the area. For an affordable but quality French Quarter hotel, check out Place d'Armes on 625 St. Ann. If you are into the casino scene, Harrah's is blocks away from the Smoothie King Center and offers lodging at 228 Poydras.
The New Orleans sports landscape is dominated by Saints and LSU fans. The NBA's New Orleans Pelicans usually absorb the remaining headlines, leaving smaller programs like the Zephyrs (MiLB) and Voodoo to fight for recognition in a crowded small market. The Voodoo have a loyal following, but attendance is certainly not where the fans or program would hope, which is near the bottom of the AFL. Expect to see an average crowd of about 5,500 in attendance (the AFL league average was about 8,500 in 2014).
With a rich history of loud and supportive football fans, expect the crowd, whether small or large, at a Voodoo game to turn up the volume. You likely won't run into any hostility or belligerent fans as seems to be the norm in larger football leagues like the NFL and major college football. The experience is very family oriented and that's due not only to intentional design by the AFL but also by the type of fans that show up to Voodoo games.
Despite being located in the New Orleans CBD, you'll likely find getting to the arena to be relatively stress free. Since crowds will be much smaller than at Saints or Pelicans games, the traffic is much lighter and parking is plentiful in the Superdome garages. With that said, you're traveling into the center of a major U.S. city, so traffic delays and headaches should be expected.
Getting around the major concourses is quite easy considering their large width. Restrooms will be wide open and accessible. They are also very clean and pretty modern. The first level concourse inside the seating area is a bit tight. If you are moving around from one section of seating to another, use the main concourse outside the seating area.
Parking is available immediately next to the arena in the Superdome garage for $15. If you're willing to walk, you can probably find parking a little further out for $10 or even $5. Concession prices will really cost you if you're feeding a family. Tickets are reasonably priced which helps with the overall cost. My recommendation is to avoid the concessions and spend your extra cash more wisely at area restaurants. Doing so will result in a higher quality experience and reduce the cost of catching a Voodoo game. Ticket prices and parking alone are actually very affordable. Unfortunately for those who can't avoid eating at the game, the high concession prices will push the experience into a price range that comes up short on expectations for the overall investment.
Being near the French Quarter is definitely a plus for those attending a Voodoo game from outside the area. Some of the world's best food and fun is just a couple of minutes away from the arena.
After most games, players are available to mingle with the fans. This is an awesome opportunity for the kids considering they may never get close to football players at bigger programs like the Saints and LSU Tigers.
The overall experience is greatly enhanced by the interaction from the team mascots, the Voodoo Dolls, and constant on-field promotions. T-shirts are hurled into the stands at a ridiculous pace.
Member Review by derontalley on Jun 14, 2012
Usually people use voodoo dolls for curses, but in New Orleans voodoo dolls are used cheer its Arena League Football team to victory.
“The Graveyard” in the New Orleans Arena is home of the New Orleans VooDoo Arena Football League team and it does a great job hosting its fans.
Since 2004, the New Orleans VooDoo have played its arena football home games in the New Orleans Arena. In 2007 it set an Arena Football League record by dispersing over 13,000 season tickets. Clearly arena football is alive and well in New Orleans.
Member Review by Kearap on Sep 18, 2013
I agree with the official review. As a season ticket holder to the Voodoo since 2006, we always enjoy the games.
New Orleans itself is a great city to visit; full of eclectic people and delicious food. The Voodoo games are just a small concentration of this! There are some of the most creative fans/costumes I've seen (and I go to several professional sports games) and they are loud. It is a natural occurrence for the crowd to shout "incomplete" along with the announcers when the opposing team does not complete a pass.
As far as the food, there is the general concession food along with a local pizza restaurant, Rotolo's, and some great Louisiana seafood options. If you get a seat in the private club level (which the middle bottom sections of the arena) you are privileged to a private club with lots of lounge chairs, leather couches, and table set ups with a fully stocked bar and the aforementioned Abita beer on tap. Purple Haze is my favorite and well worth the extra dollar spent on the cup. There is also a nicer variety of food selections in the club area. My personal favorite, is the seafood alfredo.
There is also a great tailgating atmosphere outside of the arena before the games. The team herse, yes I said herse, along with the Voodoo van are always parked outside and great photo opportunity. There Voodoo doll cheerleaders are usually on hand, and at times, there is even a local band playing.
The only reason I do not give a full 5 on return on investment is because the Voodoo themselves do not always deliver on a good game and vary rarely give us that prized W.
841 Iberville St
New Orleans, LA 70112
630 Saint Peter St
New Orleans, LA 70116
2 Poydras St
New Orleans, LA 70130
228 Poydras St
New Orleans, LA 70130
625 St Ann St
New Orleans, LA 70112
228 Poydras St
New Orleans, LA 70130