Itinerant Fan

Smoothie King Center

The sports landscape in New Orleans is undoubtedly dominated by football, what with the behemoth Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the beloved Saints around. But in recent years, the Big Easy is showing there’s a place for basketball as well. In 2002, the NBA’s Hornets came to town, moving into what was then called the New Orleans Arena. Nowadays, the team is known as the Pelicans and the arena’s name has changed to Smoothie King Center — and New Orleans is warming up to hoops.

The franchise’s playoff appearance in 2015, while brief, energized the fan base. These days, the Pelicans are looking to achieve consistent success, but with a young roster, it’s easy to imagine better days ahead.

Though Smoothie King Center is a bit of a no-frills facility compared to its contemporaries around the NBA, there are plenty of reasons to plan a basketball trip to New Orleans. The primary one is obvious — it’s New Orleans! Read on to find out all there is to do before, during and after the game.

For more on visiting New Orleans, check out our New Orleans city guide.

The approach: Getting to Smoothie King Center

Smoothie King Center is not hard to find, even if it’s overshadowed by the Superdome in the New Orleans skyline. At least you can look for the Superdome if all else fails. If you’re driving into the city’s Central Business District via the Pontchartrain Expressway, it’ll be easy to spot since it sits in front of the Superdome. You can find more detailed driving directions here.

For visitors who are staying in central New Orleans, the largest concentration of hotels are about a mile away, closer to the French Quarter and Mississippi River. Walking to the game is certainly an option in most cases. Just head west on Poydras Street toward the Superdome, then go south on Loyola Avenue. The Hyatt Regency is the closest hotel to the arena, right across the street from the Superdome.

You can also take advantage of the city’s streetcar system to get around and get to the game. For a $3 all-day fare, passengers can travel around the Central Business District and the French Quarter. Use the Loyola-UPT line to get close to the arena; Julia Street is the closest stop.

Parking is ample around the arena, which utilizes the structures surrounding the Superdome for much of its inventory. For a detailed parking map, click here.

Center map
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The build-up: Things to do around Smoothie King Center

The easy solution is to check out the French Quarter — something you should be doing anyway, whether it’s your first visit to New Orleans or not. Check out one of the many well-known restaurants and bars in the French Quarter or Central Business District (Mother’s, K-Paul’s, Pat O’Brien’s, Acme Oyster House and Cafe Du Monde, to name a few, are all within a couple miles of the arena).

You can find a guide to French Quarter establishments here, and a more basketball-specific list of good bars in the vicinity here.

Remember that the deeper you get into the French Quarter, the farther away you’ll be from the arena, so have a car handy or use the streetcar to get to the game afterward.

Also, the area in the immediate vicinity of the arena (read: within a couple blocks in any direction) tends to be quiet on Pelicans game nights, so you’ll want to plan on a walk of at least a few blocks if you plan on stopping somewhere beforehand. But the Central Business District is gradually receiving an influx of residents, and with them are coming new, high-end lofts and businesses (such as restaurants) to cater to them.

Smoothie King Center

The ambiance: Watching a game at Smoothie King Center

Smoothie King Center isn’t all that fancy-looking from the outside, at least when compared with other, newer arenas around the NBA. It’s got a boxy shape and glass atriums on several sides, particularly the main entrance facing the Superdome. The exterior underwent a renovation in recent years that made it more lively and inviting, with the addition of lighting and video screens.

Pelicans fans enter the arena via one of two pedestrian bridges that cross Dave Dixon Drive from the Superdome plaza. Once inside, you can survey a fairly diverse concessions menu that includes a few Big Easy favorites, such as po’ boys (your choice of shrimp, catfish or oysters), waffle fries with roast beef “debris” and beignets.

The seating bowl is a standard one for arenas: An upper and lower level, with suites in the middle. The center-court seats on the lower level are designated as club seats with the usual amenities (food service at your seat, etc.).

Depending on the game and day of the week, club-seat tickets can be fairly easy to purchase on the secondary market. While Pelicans fans can be passionate, especially when the team is doing well, they don’t always fill up the arena, meaning good seats can often be had for a reasonable price. For our visit, on a Monday night in December, we scored a ticket in the upper rows of the 100 level for below face value.

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    The Particulars

    Home Teams
    New Orleans Pelicans

    1501 Dave Dixon Drive
    New Orleans, LA 70113

    Year Opened


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