On game days, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Smoothie King Center in downtown New Orleans are the places to be. But for everyday operations, the 70003 ZIP code in Jefferson Parish is the sports mecca in our area. It is the home to the New Orleans Saints’ and Pelicans’ practice facility and “The Shrine on Airline.”
That sports mecca got its start in the early 1990’s when the City of Denver was awarded a Major League Baseball franchise – the Colorado Rockies. That meant the city’s AAA team, the Denver Zephyrs had to go somewhere.
“One of the motivating factors behind coming to New Orleans was the state was interested and Jefferson Parish desperately wanted a baseball team,” New Orleans Baby Cakes Legal Counsel Walter Leger Jr. said. “There was a promise by a former governor, [Buddy] Roemer, to build a baseball park.”
The next step was to find a piece of property in Jefferson Parish big enough to build a baseball stadium. That spot was in Metairie.
“The LaSalle tract was basically the only undeveloped piece of property big enough and available at the time,” Leger said. “The Saints were also looking for a better practice facility.”
The New Orleans’ Zephyrs stadium deal came together in 1995. But the team didn’t play their first game in Metairie until April 1997.
Meanwhile, the Saints moved into their brand new training facility “just down the street” in April 1996. The team was already practicing in Metairie, but they really needed an update.
“The David Drive facility was built in 1967, so it was definitely outdated,” Saints Administrative Director Jay Romig said. “Then we had a lease agreement with the state- the LaSalle Tract to build over. Worked out perfect.”
About 17 years later, in 2013, the New Orleans Pelicans moved into their new practice facility in Metairie, housed in the same complex as the Saints.
“Pels were at the Alario Center for their courts, and had office buildings in a couple places downtown,” Romig said. “So when everyone was able to come back here, for the excitement and morale for the whole organization, it was fantastic.”
The Saints have two outdoor practice fields and an indoor facility that houses a turf field and weight room. Their main locker room is at the facility, as well as a training room, meeting room, film rooms. They also share a cafeteria, ticket office and parking lot with the Pelicans.
The Pelicans have two practice courts, a weight room, training room, meeting rooms, training room, film room, TV studio and their official locker room. One of the cool perks for the Pelicans is a barber’s chair in their locker room. The barber works around their schedule because they have to look good when they’re out on the court.
“Jefferson Parish is a big part of where our season ticket holders and fans live,” Romig said. “A lot of them are out here so it works out perfect.”
Leger said residents should give credit to the local Jefferson Parish political leaders at the time because stadium and sports facilities sparked economic development on Airline Drive.