Lakefront Arena Celebrates 30th Anniversary November 1
Southern Rock Band Widespread Panic Returns for NOLA-ween
General manager Marco Perez buzzed throughout the Lakefront Arena at the University of New Orleans on Wednesday, as Southern Rock Band Widespread Panic loaded in for a three-day festival known as NOLA-ween. The celebration, which historically has brought fans to New Orleans from around the country for the Halloween weekend, this year coincides with the Lakefront Arena's 30th anniversary.
"It has been such an incredible journey, particularly for me, as I have worked here in some capacity since the venue opened 30 years ago," says Perez, an alumnus of the UNO College of Business Administration. "Not only do we continue to bring world-class entertainment to New Orleans, but our venue has been in the national spotlight as the host venue for the NBC series America's Got Talent and FOX's The X-Factor."
On Nov. 1, 1983, the Senator Nat G. Kiefer Lakefront Arena opened its doors on the University's east campus, welcoming crowds for a concert headlining Lionel Richie and the Pointer Sisters. Since then, the Lakefront Arena has been a key destination for live entertainment – bringing in 12 million patrons for world-class concerts, family and comedy shows, commencement ceremonies, athletic events and thousands of other live shows and events.
This year not only marks the Lakefront Arena's 30th year but also the arena's most successful financial year-to-date grossing more than $3 million, says Perez.
Headliner Events from Lady Gaga to Pope John Paul II
In partnership with promoters such as Live Nation, AEG, Beaver Productions, FELD Entertainment, VEE Corporation and North American Entertainment, the Lakefront Arena continues to entertain both young and old and has welcomed the likes of Pope John Paul II, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, Maya Angelou, Robin Williams, Jeff Dunham, Bill Cosby, Josh Groban, Carrie Underwood, Lady Gaga, Motley Crew, The Black Keys, Madonna, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Antebellum, Nicki Minaj, Wiz Khalifa, and Sting with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
More than 4 million patrons have attended live concerts at the arena since 1983, according to Perez, whose office walls and family scrapbooks sport photos of some of the world's most celebrated figures. And that's not all. More than 170,000 people attended mass led by Pope John Paul II at UNO in 1988. More than 55,000 attended Steep Pony Express motorcycle rallies from 2001 to 2004 and more than 90,000 attended Lollapalooza.
The award-winning arena is also home to family fun. A multi-year agreement with Feld Entertainment Presents DISNEY ON ICE makes the Lakefront Arena a family destination for many years to come. Disney now hosts numerous events and family shows in the Arena: Disney On Ice, Disney Live! Imagination Movers, Sesame Street Live and the Wiggles. Another annual favorite is a visit from the Harlem Globetrotters.
Home of the New Orleans Privateers and Athletics
Home to UNO Athletics, the Lakefront Arena has hosted thousands of athletic events and tournaments – such as the Sun Belt Conference and other NCAA events. This week, the New Orleans Privateers men's and women's basketball teams celebrate 432 games played before 800,000 fans at the arena, as they prepare for the men's home opener on Nov. 12, women's home opener on Nov. 14 and a Nov. 23 double-header against Boise State that will be televised by CST.
The Lakefront Arena's Aquatic Center, which altogether has seen more than two million visits by patrons over the last 30 years, welcomes 90,000 visitors annually and offers individual and group memberships, says Perez. The Aquatic Center's Olympic size pool provides a training ground for several high school and club swim teams and hosts state and national swim competitions.
The Lakefront Arena sustained significant damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After receiving $25 million for repairs and renovations from FEMA, the Arena re-opened its doors to the public on May 2, 2008 with an unanticipated highly successful nine sold-out performances of High School Musical-The Ice Tour. A ribbon-cutting brought city and state officials to campus in time for the arena's 25th anniversary and marked an important milestone in the University's post-Katrina recovery efforts.
A new $1.5 million state-of-the-art modified bitumen roof system with the highest available roof wind rating of 135mph is lighter than the building's previous roof, which allows production technicians to hang heavier shows in terms of sophisticated lighting and sound equipment, says Perez. The arena received new wire resurfacing, 8,700 new fixed seats, a theatrical curtain winch system; scoreboard; lighting control system; audio PA system; spotlights; skybox; all concession stands and coolers; concourse flooring; restrooms; Star Suites, production offices, a new basketball floor, new marquee and new sound system.
Recent additions have included both private and public spaces such as Spotlights and One Lounge. The newest space, The G4 Bar is scheduled to open for Widespread Panic. An LED display system was installed this past month and in early 2014 the 2,200-seat theater will be restored and put back into service completing the planned renovations.
An Economic Engine for the University
The arena and its 90-acre grounds are owned and operated by the University of New Orleans.
"The University of New Orleans is proud of the role that the Lakefront Arena has played in enriching New Orleans and the UNO campus for three decades," said University of New Orleans President Peter J. Fos. "The Arena is the home to our basketball teams, the venue for our graduations and the site of so many memorable performances and events. It is a jewel of the University."
The spaceship-shaped arena with its many ramps and winding corridors also serves as a production facility for many films and television series filmed in Louisiana. Recent productions filmed at the arena include Now You See Me, directed by Louis Leterrer and starring Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, Isla Fisher and others; Grudge Match, starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert deNiro; Made 2 Ladies' Man, Satanic and others.
The first movie filmed at Lakefront Arena was Heaven's Prisoners, says Perez.
"We emptied the pool out and that was cool because we had three sets inside the pool underwater. One was a fullscale model of the plane crash, another was a miniature model of the same set and the third was simply somewhere in the middle, halfscale."
Touring productions and television events launched and filmed at the arena include: America's Got Talent, American Idol, X-Factor, Tool and So You Think You Can Dance.
The Lakefront Arena will close out the year with a three-day performance from the band Widespread Panic; Sesame Street Live: Can't Stop Singing; Jaheim; Disney Junior Live On Tour: Pirate and Princess Adventure, as well as numerous UNO basketball games and The Color Run™.