February 25 2014 | Latest NewsAMPHITHEATER CAN SEAT UP TO 5,200
BY JAQUETTA WHITE, New Orleans
Champions Square is no longer just an opening act.
Saints co-owner Rita Benson LeBlanc reintroduced the outdoor venue Monday as Bold Sphere Music at Champions Square, an “outdoor, boutique amphitheater” that will host touring music concerts throughout the year. The grounds, adjacent to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Smoothie King Center, has mostly hosted tailgating activities before Saints games since opening in 2010.
The amphitheater area at Champions Square has undergone a $2.5 million renovation to make it more attractive to touring acts. The space will be able to accommodate 5,200 people seated and 9,000 for general-admission shows.
By comparison, the Smoothie King Center â€” formerly the New Orleans Arena â€” seats about 17,800 for concerts. The University of New Orleans Lakefront Arena can seat about 9,000 for shows.
The previous stage at Champions Square wasn’t designed for touring acts, which require more space for accoutrements like video screens, said Russell Doussan, owner of Blue Deuce Entertainment, a partner in the project.
The old stage was 30 by 40 feet and its roof could hold about 15,000 pounds, Doussan said. At 101 by 65 feet, the new stage has enough room for an artist, a backing band and backup dancers. Its roof can hold 100,000 pounds, meaning it can accommodate the elaborate light displays common in touring music shows, he said.
A production area and dressing rooms also have been added as part of the renovation.
Bold Sphere Music at Champions Square will play host to 12 to 18 concerts a year, everything from classical music to classic rock, Benson LeBlanc said.
Music “is the fabric of our souls. It is the emotional glue that connects us to our memories,” she said. “My parents met at a Dr. John concert, and I just hope that people go on their first dates here.”
The first two concerts will take place on consecutive nights in August. Country music band Parmalee will open for Jake Owen on Aug. 23. R&B acts Boyz II Men, En Vogue and Keith Sweat are scheduled for Aug. 24.
The sports complex that includes Champions Square, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Smoothie King Center attracts more than 2.3 million visitors each year, Benson LeBlanc said.
“But that has been inside. We are open to the stars out here,” she said.
“This is another achievement to make New Orleans special.” RITA BENSON LEBLANC
The stage is intended as an investment that also will help New Orleans attract events like the Super Bowl. The city is now pitching itself to the National Football League for the 2018 game.
“This is another achievement to make New Orleans special,”