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Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans planning major new music venue on second floor

Harrah's New Orleans Hotel and Casino plans to renovate its second floor to build a new live entertainment venue, the Fillmore Theater.
Harrah's New Orleans Hotel and Casino plans to renovate its second floor to build a new live entertainment venue, the Fillmore Theater.

New Orleans’ recent Central Business District theater revival is adding another chapter.

Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel and Casino plans to renovate its second floor to build a new 35,000-square-foot live entertainment venue called the Fillmore Theater, according to documents filed last week with City Hall.

It will add another major theater to an increasingly crowded field, raising questions about whether there are enough acts — and audiences — to fill all of them on a consistent basis.

Design work on the project, which will have an entrance on Canal Street, is being handled by the Philadelphia-based firm EwingCole and Manning Architects of New Orleans. Concert giant Live Nation Entertainment will operate the club.

So far, details of the plan are scant. Ashley Roth Lusk, a Harrah’s spokeswoman, declined comment Friday; a representative of Manning Architects did not return a call for comment.

However, a past partnership by EwingCole and Live Nation in Philadelphia may offer a few clues. The companies opened a venue there in 2015, also called the Fillmore. The 40,000-square-foot space includes a main event area for 2,500 people and a smaller space for 400 people.

The name is a nod to the Fillmore Auditorium, the famed San Francisco venue operated in the 1960s by rock music promoter and impresario Bill Graham.

New Orleans officials have long pushed Harrah’s to add an entertainment venue to the casino’s second floor, and they included it as a stipulation in the 1998 lease with the company for the city-owned site. The huge space is now used largely for storage, and adding a theater there could help generate additional revenue for both Harrah’s and the city.

Harrah’s plans for a new theater follow a push to renovate and reopen many of the city’s historic theaters on and near Canal Street, which boosters credit with having breathed new life into areas that have grappled with blight and neglect since Hurricane Katrina.

That process started with the reopening of the city-owned Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts in Armstrong Park, a few blocks from Canal, in 2009. It was followed by the Joy Theatre in 2011 and the Saenger and Civic theaters in 2013.

The Joy, which underwent a $5 million renovation, has seating for about 660 people or can handle a standing crowd of 1,200.

The 2,800-seat Saenger, home to many touring Broadway shows, reopened after a $53 million makeover, while the 1,200-seat Civic, the city’s oldest theater, reopened following a $10 million renovation a few months later. It is also a few blocks from Canal, while the Joy and Saenger are on opposite sides of the city’s onetime main shopping street.

The Orpheum Theater, now under the guidance of the co-owners of Tipitina’s, reopened in 2015 a half-block off Canal.

Read more about this story at TheAdvocate.com.

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