When the New Orleans Hornets arrived in 2002, they persuaded the state government to demand that the Brass foot the cost of converting the arena between basketball and hockey configurations. That expense was more than the Brass were willing to pay, and they were forced to fold due to the lack of another suitable arena.

The Hornets played their first game at the Smoothie King Center versus the Utah Jazz on October 30, 2002.

The arena was completed in 1999 at a cost of $114 million and officially opened on October 19, 1999. The arena seats 16,867 for Pelicans games. It has 2,800 club seats and 56 luxury suites.