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SMG is Eyeing Other Sports Opportunities on the Horizon

SMG, the company that manages operations at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the New Orleans Arena, showed off $30 million in improvements to the arena Monday afternoon.

The arena’s suites, concession stands, clubs, and other areas were all renovated as part of the improvements.  A second phase of renovation work will begin next year and cost another $20 million.

“It’s gonna be something.  We’re gonna fill it up,” said Pelicans team owner Tom Benson.

During the tour, SMG’s Doug Thornton talked about how the improvements are aimed at improving revenue from tickets, advertizing, and other sales.

WGNO News also asked Thornton about SMG’s plans to attract business to the Superdome next football season since Tulane will be playing its home games in a new stadium.  Thornton said the company is looking at various options including the possibility of bringing in soccer matches.  Thornton also said the Dome could bring in neutral site college football games, the same kind LSU plays when the Tigers head to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tx.

But Thornton warned that the neutral site games may not be as attractive financially as they are with fans.

“The economics of these college football games are quite difficult sometimes.  So we have to figure out when it makes sense to do that,” Thornton said.

Thornton also commented on the recent upheaval involving the Grambling State football team.  Last week, the players protested the condition of the team’s facilities and other issues by opting not to practice or play last Saturday’s game.

In a few weeks, Grambling is set to play in the 40th Bayou Classic game in the Superdome.  Monday, the team released a statement saying it was returning to the field, but what if it opts to continue its protest in New Orleans for the big game?

“The Bayou Classic has a great tradition here in New Orleans.  We want to see it continue.  So I’m hopeful that the two schools will still be able to play, and Grambling will meet their obligation to be here,” Thornton said.

The Bayou Classic also released a statement saying the game and all the events surrounding it will take place as planned.

As for the new renovations at the New Orleans Arena, workers announced chef John Besh would be joining the project as a food consultant.