Smoothie King Center Celebrates 20 Years as the King of Live Entertainment in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS — Since opening its doors for business in October 1999, the Smoothie King Center established itself as the number one entertainment and sports venue in the region. It has hosted many of the world’s largest concert acts, sporting events, and family shows as well as numerous convention sessions and special events.
To celebrate the venue’s 20th anniversary, ASM Global, the State of Louisiana’s contracted manager of the Smoothie King Center, selected the theme “20 Years as the King”. Details were shared in a press release.
On October 29, 1999, the arena presented its first event – the New Orleans Brass vs. Baton Rouge King Fish hockey game. A few days later, on November 5, ZZ Top played the first concert and immediately created a new standard for concert experiences in New Orleans. Over the past 20 years the arena has played host to over 500 entertainment events which have sold over 13.6 million tickets.
Professional basketball returned to New Orleans in 2002, with the arrival of the New Orleans Hornets. Further bolstering New Orleans reputation as a great host of major events, the arena has also showcased three NBA All-Star Games and two NCAA Women’s Final Fours.
Even before staging its first event, the Smoothie King Center, at an initial construction cost of $114 million, was viewed as a model for a well-managed publicly funded project. The investment in the Smoothie King Center, when compared to the cost of new NBA arenas such as Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, (2018 – $524 million) and Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit, (2017 – $863 million) warranted favorable reviews. In addition to providing memorable fan experiences, the arena continues to generate a substantial economic return to the State of Louisiana.
Over the course of the past 20 years, the Smoothie King Center has been improved with both fan-facing and back-of-house upgrades. The most extensive of these improvements followed Tom Benson’s purchase of the then New Orleans Hornets in 2012 from the NBA.
In addition to rechristening the team as the Pelicans, shortly thereafter a two year, $54 million state funded renovation and improvement project was initiated. These improvements included the installation of 16 new loge boxes in the lower seating bowl, new club section chairs, new and re-engineered concession stands, and the construction of a large street level atrium entrance.
The premium/club spaces were refurbished, a new team store was built, new ticket windows were added, and a complete remodel of all 56 suites was completed. Most noticeably, the exterior green facade was repainted a sleek modern gray color, which was further enhanced with the addition of stunning LED lighting. Another impressive addition at the Smoothie King Center included a new massive center-hung HD video scoreboard, funded by ASM Global, which was in place for the start of the 2015-16 NBA season.
In February of 2014, a venue naming rights deal was secured with Smoothie King. This 10-year deal resulted in the building’s official name change from New Orleans Arena to Smoothie King Center. On February 6, 2014 the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves at their first game with the arena’s new name.
ASM Global General Manager Alan Freeman said, “The Smoothie King Center continues to be consistently ranked as a Top 50 arena in the U.S. for touring attractions. This is not only a testament to the dedicated staff we have on the ASM Global team, but also reflective of the vibrant New Orleans market, which attracts visitors from across the entire region.”
Event numbers at the Smoothie King Center are the highest since opening, hosting on average over 30 major ticketed shows (not including Pelicans Games and private events) each year. Artists like Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Stevie Wonder, Bette Midler, Dolly Parton, Bruno Mars and Fleetwood Mac have performed for thousands on the Smoothie King Center stage.
When asked about the arena, Don Fox of Beaver Productions said, “20 years ago, I opened the building with the 1st concert ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Since then, it has been a pleasure to continue bringing shows to the Smoothie King Center.”
The future of the Smoothie King Center is strong and exciting. The building is a must play for all major touring events as well as such sporting events as the Southeastern Conference Gymnastics Championships, the Sun Belt Conference Basketball Championships, and the 2020 NCAA Women’s Final Four scheduled in April of 2020.
As part of the ASM Global managed New Orleans Sports and Entertainment Complex, the Smoothie King Center continues to provide unforgettable experiences for fans of all ages and entertainment inclinations, while sustaining its role as an economic engine for New Orleans and all of Louisiana.