By Meredith Adams
Since opening its doors for business in October 1999, the Smoothie King Center quickly 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” in recognition of the arena having hosted a wide spectrum
of the most memorable entertainment events in the Big Easy!
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) certainly warrants favorable reviews. In addition to providing
memorable fan experiences, the arena continues to generate a substantial economic return to the State of
Over the course of the past 20 years, the Smoothie King Center has continuously been improved with both fanfacing and back-of-house upgrades, all of which have allowed the facility to maintain its first-in-class status. 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
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.
Twenty years after its opening, the Smoothie King Center is truly better than ever and stands ready and able to host major events that will enhance the venue’s rich history. ASM Global General Manager Alan Freeman observes “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. The Smoothie King Center is well positioned to continue its reign as the “King” for years to come.
Meredith Adams is Event Marketing & Media Coordinator for Mercedes-Benz Superdome | Smoothie King Center | Champions Square.