In Greater New Orleans, fans are among the most loyal around. Elaborate costumes and celebrations are the norm, making this the perfect place for a tailgate.
A team for almost any sport can be found here, with football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and rugby all represented with professional or collegiate teams. The biggest draw is the New Orleans Saints (NFL). The New Orleans Pelicans (NBA) are massively popular as well. The Jesters (NPSL) and Gold (MLR) wow fans with their grit and determination on the field. If you happen to cheer for the opposing team, though, New Orleans fans are some of the friendliest and most welcoming in the country (even for you, Dirty Birds fans).
This fandom extends to college athletics, with Tulane, UNO, Loyola, and Southeastern universities drawing large crowds for their events. At just an hour away, LSU draws massive turnouts for football, basketball, baseball, and even gymnastics. Additionally, high school stadiums and Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park are regularly filled with high school students, parents, and alumni under Friday night lights.
New Orleans Saints
In 1967, the NFL created an expansion team in New Orleans, and the city has had a love affair ever since. The Saints are a preeminent unifying force among residents, bringing together fans of all ages, races, genders, and backgrounds draped in black and gold to shout “WHO DAT?!” in revelry and disappointment alike.
There are songs about the Saints, current and former players are memorialized on Mardi Gras floats, and, in the 1980s when the team was among the worst performing in the league, fans still flocked to the Superdome (with paper bags on their heads).
To say that the team has the full support of the community is an understatement. Viewership during games regularly is at or near the top of markets in the league each game, and it’s well-documented that calls for emergency services grind to a halt from kickoff to final whistle. Since 2006, season tickets have sold out to capacity (73,112) and there is a waiting list of over 100,000 fans waiting to purchase tickets. The tenacity and remarkable comeback of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is frequently compared to the rise of the Saints in the 2009-2010 season, culminating in the Saints’ first Superbowl appearance and win.
New Orleans Pelicans
The city’s first taste of the NBA came in 1974, as the New Orleans Jazz, but, after just five years, the team relocated to Salt Lake City. In 2002, the Hornets moved to New Orleans, before becoming the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013 — an homage to the brown pelican, which is the State bird that came back from the brink of extinction and is known for being a fierce predator.
Today, the team is in the midst of a major overhaul, following the hire of David Griffin as the team’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations. In the 2019 NBA Draft, the Pelicans were able to land Zion Williamson, who joined All-Star Jrue Holiday and a powerhouse team. In support of the enormous potential for success, fans are clamoring for season tickets.
The Pelicans play in the Smoothie King Center, affectionately called The Blender, which is located next door to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Gayle Benson, a lifelong New Orleanian and the first woman to be the majority stakeholder in both an NFL and NBA team, owns both the Saints and Pelicans.
The New Orleans region is home to eight universities that have varsity athletics.
Tulane University has recently invested in all of its athletic programs. A brand-new on-campus football stadium was built on the site of the original Sugar Bowl Stadium (home to three Super Bowls). Basketball and baseball also play in accessible stadiums nestled into the Uptown neighborhood.
The University of New Orleans also has had success with its baseball team, and the basketball team has been able to go dancing in the March Madness tournament a few times.
Each Thanksgiving, the Superdome hosts the Bayou Classic, one of the most historic annual football rivalries between Grambling and Southern Universities. While the game is always exciting, the Battle of the Bands is not to be missed!
Louisiana State University is a 70-mile drive west to one of the most iconic scenes in college football – Death Valley in Baton Rouge. Home to Tiger Stadium and Mike the Tiger, LSU tailgates rival any other campus in college football. Experiencing a night game for LSU football is a bucket list for any sports fan. LSU also boasts nationally competitive baseball, basketball, gymnastics, and numerous other varsity sports.
Sugar Bowls to Super Bowls
New Orleans hosts the BIG events. Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, and Joe Montana have all had their starring moments in New Orleans. New Orleans has been home to a record 11 Super Bowls. Unfortunately, they have not hosted the Saints in any of them – yet!
New Orleans is consistently recognized as one of the best cities for big events. Annual events include the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the PGA Zurich Classic, and the New Orleans Bowl. The New Orleans Sports Foundation has been successful is recruiting every major event across all sports. Final Fours, College Football Championship games, Wrestlemanias, and Super Bowls have all been in New Orleans over the years. Next up (pending the COVID-19 pandemic): the 2022 Men’s Final Four and the 2024 Super Bowl, amongst other events.