The arena was completed in 1999 at a cost of $114 million and officially opened on October 19, 1999. The arena seats 17,805 for concerts, 16,867 for Pelicans games, 18,500 for college basketball and Pelicans playoff games, and 16,900 for ice hockey and arena football. It has 2,800 club seats and 56 luxury suites.
The arena as a concert venue can seat 7,500 for half-stage shows, 17,221 for end-stage shows and 17,805 for a center-stage shows. For trade shows and conventions the arena features 17,000 square feet (1,600 m2) of space. The ceiling is 65 feet (20 m) to beam and roof, 70 feet (21.5 m) to the top of the arena.
Following Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, medical operations that had previously been housed in the Superdome were moved to the Arena. Medical personnel had been working in an area of the Superdome with poor lighting, leaking ceilings and soggy carpet. The Arena's design was tested in 1996 by CPP, a wind engineering consulting firm, so it fared far better than the Superdome during the storm and was in better condition to house sensitive medical operations. Thus, unlike the Superdome, the Arena reopened to activities only one month after the storm. On March 8, 2006, the Hornets played their first home game at the arena since Hurricane Katrina and the start of the 2005–06 season. A sellout crowd of 17,744 watched the Los Angeles Lakers defeat the Hornets, 113–107.
In 2006, the arena installed an LED centerhung video and scoring system from Daktronics out of Brookings, South Dakota. The centerhung installation is made up of two ring displays and eight video displays, as well as scoreboards. This installation is fully integrated with the more than 875 feet (267 m) of ribbon display technology that was installed in the arena in 2002. In the summer of 2008, new Daktronics "see through" shot clocks were installed, replacing the existing box units.
The New Orleans VooDoo of the Arena Football League resumed play at the arena in March 2011.
In 2013, the arena underwent a significant upgrade. The 2013 renovations were primarily focused for the gameday experience inside the arena. These upgrades include updates to the Suites and Club Levels, expanding the Club Levels, Creating new Loge Boxes, and a new Party Perch. Other upgrades include upgraded concession stands, upgraded LED boards, and other in-house amenities for the teams and performers that use the arena.