NEW ORLEANS (SunBeltSports.org) – The 2014 Sun Belt Conference Men's and Women's Basketball Championships will be held at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans the league office announced today. New Orleans will be the host site of the tournament through 2016.
"All of the characteristics that make New Orleans one of the greatest tourist destinations in the world will guarantee that the Sun Belt Conference's student-athletes, fans, coaches and administrators will love coming to the Big Easy every March," said Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation CEO Jay Cicero. "We look forward to playing an important role in making this one of the NCAA's best conference tournaments."
Lakefront Arena previously hosted the 2002 Sun Belt Championships. This time-around the venue will be featured as a neutral site arena – marking the third arena to host the Sun Belt as a neutral court.
"New Orleans is a great destination for our basketball championships and the recent renovations to Lakefront Arena make it an excellent venue to showcase our league," said Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson. "In addition to being a great geographical fit for our membership, New Orleans has an incredible track record of hosting great sporting events – including the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl which has had a Sun Belt participant since the inaugural game in 2001. The city's great restaurants, shopping, entertainment and accommodations, provide Sun Belt fans numerous things to do when away from the arena."
Lakefront Arena has recently undergone renovations that include a new $3.5 million exterior metal facade and sloped roof panels, a $1.5 million state-of-the-art bitumen roof system, $2.5 million in new seating with 8,700 chairs total, $1.2 million in ramp renovations, new flooring throughout the second level concourse, new tiles and restroom fixtures throughout, arena lighting upgrades, a new sound system and the building of two new lounges.
"New Orleans is a great destination for Sun Belt fans, as those who have attended the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl can attest," said Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor of Troy University and President of the Sun Belt Conference Executive Committee. "It provides an excellent geographical fit for our league and is easily reachable for our fans. As we make this announcement, however, I would be remiss if I did not thank the City of Hot Springs for four and soon to be five memorable tournaments, starting in 2009."
The announcement of the relocation of the tournament comes with a year left on the existing agreement that the Sun Belt Conference has with the city of Hot Springs. Both parties mutually agreed to split ways on the heels of the fifth consecutive tournament being hosted in Hot Springs, March 8-11.
"The city of Hot Springs and the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau have been terrific for the Sun Belt Conference," said Commissioner Benson. "When Hot Springs began hosting the tournament in 2009 it was the first neutral site that the Sun Belt had used in over twenty years. The leadership of Steve Arrison and his staff made the existence of a neutral site basketball tournament for the Sun Belt possible.
"We have had a great partnership with the Sun Belt Conference over the past five years and are looking forward to a great tournament come March," said Hot Spring Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Steve Arrison. "We originally had only a three year deal with the Sun Belt and are fortunate that next month we will have had five outstanding Sun Belt tournaments here in Hot Springs."