The Unique Geographical Setup Of The New Orleans Pro Sports Scene

Superdome and Smoothie King CenterOver the weekend, the Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans split Games 3 and 4 of their Western Conference Semifinal series, on the hardwood of the Smoothie King Center, in downtown New Orleans. With the defending champions now leading 3-1, the best-of-7 returns to Oakland’s Oracle Arena for Tuesday night’s Game 5.

NBA betting lines indicate that the Warriors will very likely wrap up the series, upon the team’s return to its Northern California home court.

The New Orleans metropolitan area possesses a very unique professional sports landscape, particularly when it comes to its NBA, NFL and Triple-A baseball game and practice sites. In fact, all three of the above entities base their respective operations on just two plots of geographic real estate.

Within the northwest section of downtown New Orleans, at the intersection of Interstate 10 and the Pontchartrain Expressway, sits Smoothie King Center (home of the Pelicans), the iconic Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which is of course the longtime gameday setting of the New Orleans Saints, along with the 90,000-square-foot Champions Square (photo upper right).

Originally constructed in 1999, Smoothie King underwent a $54 million upgrade in 2013. The building’s current manifestation includes a seating capacity of just under 17,000, a 20,000-square-foot lobby, 56 luxury suites, 16 loge boxes and a Pelicans team store.

Immediately north of the Smoothie King Center, across Stadium Drive, rests the 43-year-old, world famous Superdome. Due in larger measure to New Orleans' status as a destination city, besides the Saints, the Superdome’s greatest notoriety comes from the numerous big events that have occurred in the building. Seven Super Bowls, five Final Fours, four BCS Title Games, as well as both the annual Sugar Bowl and Bayou Classic.

Away from football, the Superdome was home to the New Orleans Jazz from 1975-1979, before the franchise moved west to Utah. It was also the site where Muhammad Ali won the heavyweight title for the third time, while also hosting Wrestlemania and even some exhibition MLB games.  

Eight miles west of the dual downtown stadiums, in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, sits the Ochsner Sports Performance Center. The 19-acre property, found on the south side of Airline Drive, is home to the headquarters and practice facilities of both the Pelicans and Saints.

Opened in 2013, the Pelicans building features more than 50,000-square-feet of basketball and business operations.

Right next door, the longtime HQ of the Saints includes 200,000-square-feet of training and business space, including two outdoor practice fields, along with an indoor fieldhouse.

Both the Saints and Pelicans are owned by the family of the late Tom Benson, who passed away in March, at the age of 90.

Ochsner Sports Performance Center

Photo Credit: Google

In an interesting turn of events, one block west of the Ochsner Sports Performance Center exists the Shrine on Airline, the 10,000-seat home ballpark of the Triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes. Prior to 2017, the Marlins’ minor league affiliate were known as the New Orleans Zephyrs, with the stadium holding the name of Zephyr Field.

Since moving to the New Orleans area in 1993, the Baby Cakes/Zephyrs have served as minor league affiliates to the Astros, Nationals, Mets and Marlins (since 2009.)

Shrine on Airline Metairie, LA

So, if someone is interested in catching a glimpse of the New Orleans area professional sports scene, two blocks (separated by eight miles) is all the travel needed to soak in the full experience.