Renovations, more affordable tickets that have Pelicans fans excited

Tom Gozdzialski and Jacob Heflin hardly needed sales representatives when they went to New Orleans Arena on Wednesday to select their seats for this season’s Pelicans games.

Veterans of the Hub Club, they went straight to the spot — located in the 200 level — sales rep in tow.

“We like the amenities,” Gozdzialski said. “There’s a lot of food and beverages that come with the tickets, but mostly we love the atmosphere there.”

And, that is expected to be greatly enhanced by all the renovations taking place at the Arena. Although they’re not yet complete, and the court won’t be on the floor for about another week, the improvements clearly are taking shape.

That’s certainly true in the Hub Club.

“They put a bar on the second level, and there’s going to be a band (in the Party Perch) just above us, in the next level up,” Heflin said. “They’re doing a lot of work right now.”

The Party Perch is one of several upgrades, but certainly a highlight. Others include new suites, changes to the north and south clubs, redone locker rooms, the addition of the Chairman’s Club exclusive area and renovations to the Capital One Club and the concession stands.

However, to Michael Stanfield, senior vice president of sales for the Saints and Pelicans, among the jewels of the renovation are the loge suites, 16 four- and five-seat sets spread over two levels that cost $31,000 for each set.

“They’re great for conducting business,” Stanfield said. “They were quickly sold out.”

Reyan Kelly said the game is the perfect place for her to work, also. Kelly will be at the games raising funds for Battle for Judah Wellness Foundation, which she started to aid those who cannot afford treatment for traumatic brain injuries, which her daughter experienced.

Kelly was there to purchase a ticket package for her husband and sons Jai, 10, and Skilar, 6. Jai helped pick out a seat near the top of corner section 121, located across from the visitors’ bench.

“I like it because it’s close to the court and the goal, and I can see all the players,” Jai said.

Stanfield said it’s an excellent choice because tickets in the top eight rows in each of the side sections were reduced when team officials saw late last season that the tickets were not selling. It’s part of eight new ticket packages the team has for this season, with the idea of lower tickets meaning a higher volume of fans in attendance. Eighty percent of tickets were reduced, he said.

Kendrick Wysingle, 35, snatched up two such tickets nearby — in section 123, row 24, seats 11 and 12.

“They’re great seats,” said Wysingle, who is from St. Rose but works in New Orleans with Homeland Security. “They’re near half court, close to the aisle — I’ve got long legs — and it’s not far from the concession stands and the rest room.”

Not everybody got the seats they wanted. John and Stephanie Dillon of Metairie came to the Arena with the intent of getting their old favorites in section 119. However, they were surprised when told the seats were sold.

“We had those seats for the 2011-12 season, and the team was so bad, we couldn’t give the tickets away,” John said. “So we didn’t renew for last season.”

They wound up this time with half-season tickets in 311. John didn’t seem too excited. Asked who had the final say on the tickets, he pointed to Stephanie.

“You couldn’t beat the value,” she said. “It’s $950 each for half-season tickets in another section. Ours cost $450 for both tickets!”

Of course, it’s not just the renovations and affordable tickets that have fans excited. All said the Pelicans’ revamped lineup is the main reason for the excitement, and that the renovations will make for a great environment in which to watch the team win.

“Anthony Davis is playing great, and they added some good veteran players,” Heflin said.

M. Tracey Watts has had the same 300-level seats since the 2007-08 season. She loves her seats, she said — even though they are high up — her expectations are even higher with the acquisition of point guard Jrue Holiday and guard Tyreke Evans.

“I wanted to get a sneak peak at the renovations,” she said, “but I just can’t wait for the season to start. It’s going to be great.”