Big plans for now defunct New Orleans Centre area


by Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

Posted on November 2, 2009 at 6:50 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 2 at 7:38 PM

NEW ORLEANS - Saints owner Tom Benson and state leaders are moving the ball down the field on the new sports and entertainment complex across the street from the Superdome.

As part of the deal that keeps the NFL franchise in Louisiana through 2025, the public-private partnership will re-develop the the now dormant, New Orleans Centre mall.

A planning firm is now mapping out phase one of the project.

That includes tearing down the old mall and building a new street-level plaza for tailgating and pre and post game partying.

"You will see change there within the next several months," said Doug Thornton, Executive Vice-President of SMG, the private contractor that manages the Dome and New Orleans Arena. "Our plan is to be underway with the demolition and construction of this plaza by say February first. Our plan is to have it activated for use by next football season, at some point during the football season."

Thornton says the new sports and entertainment district would be similar to LA-Live, outside the Staple center in Los Angeles.

Phase two would connect the new plaza with the Dome and Arena.

Phase three would be the opening of new restaurants, clubs and retail.

"It would be a place for people to gather pre and post game," said Thornton. "But, we want it to work on a regular business day as well."

Saints fans says the complex should include a wide variety of attractions.

"I'd like to see stuff where everybody can come and enjoy it, not just people looking to drink or just do wild stuff, said Mike Oster.

"Sports bars, restaurants," said Chris Cochran. "We all talked about it with the NFL theme."

"It would be nice if they can set up some barbecue pits." said Amanda Champagne.

Doug Thornton admits that getting the Katrina shuttered downtown Hyatt Regency back up and running is key to the success to the new sports and entertainment district. And, he says the owner, Poydras Properties, LLC is finally close to getting the financing needed to renovate and reopen the hotel.

"I don't want to speak for them, but there is movement and we're hopeful that their financing will be secured within the next 30 to 45 days and that project will be underway right after the first of the year," said Thornton.

Thornton also says he is already getting calls from businesses that want to be part of the new complex.