The Shrine on Airline could get a major facelift in Metairie. Here is the latest idea | Business News

Metairie’s Shrine on Airline, which has sat mostly vacant since the Babycakes minor league baseball team decamped after the 2019 season, could be headed for a major face-lift.

Jefferson Parish and state officials are in talks about transforming the stadium, built in 1997, from one built largely for baseball into a rectangular alignment that would allow it to host more high school football, rugby, soccer and concerts.

Parish officials are considering using $ 15 million in American Rescue Plan funding for the project, although the renovation is expected to cost two to three times that much. The federal disaster money was distributed to local governments to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic coronavirus.







Baby Cakes player Dylan Lee watches from the dugout during the final New Orleans Baby Cakes game against the Memphis Redbirds at the Shrine on Airline in Metairie, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019.




The renovation could include adding artificial turf and stands along the facility’s eastern side, in what is now right and center fields. Preliminary renderings show single-level stands with a flat cover to provide shade. Other amenities, such as expanded concession areas, could also be added, they said.

Jefferson Parish Council member Deano Bonano, who represents the district where the stadium is located, said the Shrine could become a magnet for residents along the Gulf Coast, luring fans, players and families to events year round.

“I’m hoping it’s one of those ‘build it and they’ll come’ things,” Bonano said.

The Shrine could be used in tandem with the busy LaSalle Park nearby to lure youth soccer tournaments. Concerts could be held in the outfield, and the facility could team up with the adjacent Jefferson Performing Arts Center for music festivals, Bonano said.







Reconfigured Shrine 1

An artist rendering of what a reconfigured Shrine on Airline could look like.




One use that’s not likely for the 10,000-seat stadium? Professional baseball.

The Triple-A Babycakes, which arrived as the Zephyrs in 1993 and played at the University of New Orleans before becoming the main tenant at the Shrine, played before dwindling crowds in the years before they left for Wichita, Kansas.

Minor League Baseball is “not sustainable here,” Bonano said.

The stadium’s only significant tenant at present is Major League Rugby’s Nola Gold. For those games, fans sit in the stadium’s seats along what would be the first- and third-base lines during a baseball game.







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The “Shrine” on Airline Highway at in Metairie, Friday, May 13, 2022. (Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate) DCIM \ 100MEDIA \ DJI_0021.JPG




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Any transformation still faces significant hurdles, including securing funding and working out a number of intergovernmental agreements and leases, officials cautioned. Current discussions are still “very preliminary,” they said.

Bonano and others on the Parish Council are discussing a plan that would dedicate approximately $ 15 million of the $ 84 million the parish received in American Rescue Plan funds to the project. Parish officials are hoping to receive additional funding from the state to cover the rest of the work.

A redesigned Shrine could also be used to lure other professional sports teams. Parish officials have met with a consultant who is studying the viability of professional minor league soccer in the area.

Jamie Guin, a former executive with Major League Soccer’s LAFC who is now based in New Orleans, said he was studying the New Orleans market and talking to various groups and individuals about the possibilities.







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The New Orleans Baby Cakes host the Memphis Redbirds at The Shrine on Airline in Metairie, La., Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. The Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District has demanded the owner of the Baby Cakes to say when the team expects to leave the Shrine on Airline; uncertainty about the clubÕs departure date is preventing the LSED from finding a new tenant




“I’m doing some market discovery,” Guin said. “It’s in the early stages.”

One potential candidate would be a team in the United Soccer League, which is a step below Major League Soccer and in the midst of a rapid expansion. The league has recently added teams in El Paso, Birmingham and Memphis.

League spokesperson Will Kuhns said conversations regarding the New Orleans team were in “an exploratory phase.”

Putting a professional soccer team in Metairie could be a good fit, said Kyle France, chairman of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, the state entity that owns the Caesars Superdome, the Smoothie King Center, the Alario Center and the Shrine, among some others sports venues.

“I think the demographics in Jefferson Parish for a soccer team are pretty good,” France said. “It all depends on what we are able to cobble together relative to that facility.”

Jefferson Parish Council member Scott Walker said a renovated stadium drawing multiple sports could help kickstart a renewal of the area.

“It would be something that makes it a spot for everybody,” he said. “I think it offers a lot of possibilities.”







Reconfigured Shrine 2

An artist rendering of what a reconfigured Shrine on Airline could look like.




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