When thinking of New Orleans, visitors and residents alike will always picture the grand riverboats. The New Orleans Paddlewheels riverboats can be seen running along the Mississippi River any given day or night. These floating venues host many events but are limited on space. New Orleans is now home to the newest riverboat the Louis Armstrong which is large enough to host weddings, conventions, parties and concerts.
Emily Blackburn, director of sales at New Orleans Paddlewheels, found a boat capable of hosting these larger events all the way in Indiana. The 3,000 passenger vessel was a casino riverboat called the City of Evansville. Built in 1995, the boat was completely rebuilt into a floating music, wedding, convention and party venue.
The multi-million-dollar renovation took place on a drydock in Morgan City and then moved to Algiers behind the Mardi Gras World where it will be docked when out of commission.
To create this great venue, the first mission was to remove all the gaming machines, walls, ceilings, floors, bathrooms and the casino boat’s cashier counters. Once that was complete the transformation could begin.
Throughout the riverboat new electrical, a security system, high-tech audio system, new stage, new bars, new lounges, and digitally controlled lighting were installed. The air-conditioning system was also upgraded.
The three enclosed decks and the promenade were all redesigned with specific functions in mind. They also were redesigned to be versatile so the venue would be a clean slate. The first floor can be subdivided for meetings and dinners. The second floor is the main concert hall with a standing-room-only capacity of 1,000 and a seated show of 400. The third floor will hold weddings, banquets and other events and includes a lounge.
Since there are so many bridges in New Orleans, the huge smokestacks were also taken down, refurbished and reinstalled. The exterior was also redone by sandblasting and repainting the entire riverboat. The engines were overhauled, safety equipment updated and the pilot house was updated.
The Louis Armstrong will board at 1 Poydras St. behind the Hilton Riverside Hotel where the Flamingo riverboat casino used to dock. The riverboat will host functions remaining dockside or sailing. Every Sunday patrons will enjoy a gospel jazz brunch. The riverboat will also hold concerts.
Even though the Louis Armstrong has not made its official debut, the boat is already booked for dozens of events for 2020. One big event is the College Football Playoff National Championship weekend in January. The riverboat will be docked alongside Woldenburg Park for ESPN and CFP committee private parties.
“It’s going to be very exciting,” Blackburn said. “I might cry happy tears.”
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