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Pelicans unveil Arena renovations

NEW ORLEANS - Construction can be seen and heard all around the New Orleans Arena.

Another sound will fill the place Wednesday - cheers as the Pelicans make their New Orleans debut.

"We want an arena that everybody can be proud of," says Doug Thornton, Executive Vice President of Stadiums and Arenas. "We want a sports complex that everybody can be proud of, and I think right now we're on a roll."

Pelicans officials on Monday showed off $50 million worth of improvements made in the past six months. The locker rooms are completely renovated, with new areas for training and treatment.

Just across the hall is a new Chairman's Club where VIPs can watch the players enter the locker room.

On every level, there are new club spaces and improved concession stands, offering what team officials hope will be a better fan experience.

Pelicans President Dennis Lauscha says the improvements should also help the arena generate more money.

"It's not always a market issue, a lot of times, it's a facilities issue," he says. "If you can invest in the facilities, if you can put some capital monies in these specific areas where we think we can generate revenue, we won't have to rely on any inducement payments or guarantees from the state for our financial viability."

This is just the first phase of the renovation. Phase 2 would add nearly 25,000 square feet to the lobby area and better connect the arena to Champions Square.

"We've still got to work on the architectural design and some of the cost estimates, and when this will be done," Thornton said. "But our currently thinking, current plan, is that we would like to have it finished before the beginning of the 2014 season."

The Pelicans start their 2013 regular season Oct. 30, and owner Tom Benson thinks it's going to be a great one.

"With this and the new training facility for the players, we're looking forward to great season, and this ought to help us with the fans and everybody," he says.

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