Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS - Part of the new deal that locks the Hornets in New Orleans through 2024, calls for $50 million in improvements to the state-owned Arena.

Lawmakers approved the funding in Louisiana's building budget for next year.

'Hopefully these dollars are going to create a better asset for the state, get more concerts in here, get more visitors to our city to attend events at the New Orleans Arena,' said Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans.

Stadium and SMG Executive VP Doug Thornton says an architectural firm has been working on the new arena design since last October.

'The Arena is now 13 years old, suite renovations, restroom renovations, modifications to the two club lounges, we'll have a new club entrance on the east side,' said Thornton.

There will also be a new Arena entrance.

'We're talking about reorienting the way people enter the building and possibly putting a new Arena lobby on the exterior portion of what is there now,' said Thornton.

Improved VIP areas including new loge box seating are also in the plans.

'It would be similar to sort of a theater box,' said Thornton. 'We would probably put that on the east in-court side in the lower level, the plaza level, probably 150 to 160 seats where you would have a private area with a television monitor. It would be catered.'

There would also be new exterior video, lighting and signage, similar to the Superdome across the street.

Thornton says all of the improvement will help attract a naming rights sponsor.

'Just as we saw with the Superdome with Mercedes coming in after $336 million were invested to improve the dome.'

The contract for contraction of the improvements is expected to go out for bid in January and work is expected to begin after the Hornets complete next season.

'We would work throughout the summer and have it ready for the following basketball season to reopen and then we would do the same thing again in the second off-season,' said Thornton.

It's all part of the new strategy to invest in state-owned buildings rather than giving sports teams direct subsidies.

'It really puts the onus on the team to utilize the facility to its fullest extent to generate revenue so that the state's not on the hook to make cash inducements and payments to make it profitable to be here,' said Leger.

There is also $10 million in the capitol outlay budget for a new Hornets training center.

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