When the New Orleans Pelicans begin training camp in 2 weeks, they’ll be toiling in one of the NBA’s finest practice facilities. Team ownership unveiled the $15 million, 50,000-square-foot new building Tuesday.
“We believe we have the finest facility in the NBA,” Pelicans Owner Tom Benson said. “With that, we’re looking forward to having one of the finest basketball teams. This is a first-class facility.”
The Pelicans management scoured some of the best practice facilities at both the NBA and collegiate levels to glean ideas for designing the Pels’ new home. It features spacious locker rooms, a 28-seat theater for watching video, a player’s lounge, a juice bar, two hardwood courts and 24-hour access for players, courtesy of fingerprint recognition technology.
“When we bought the team, we planned to build a championship from the ground up,” said Rita Benson LeBlanc, Pelicans owner/vice chairman of the board. “We have all kinds of extra things to make sure our players are the happiest in the NBA. All kinds of creature comforts. We even have a barber’s chair, so that they can get spiffed up and feel great about themselves.”
As part of the franchise’s agreement to move to New Orleans in 2002, the then Hornets were supposed to receive their own practice facility, but after years of ownership uncertainty, the facility never came to fruition, until now. It’s housed on the same campus as the New Orleans Saints, with the clubs sharing some resources such as the cafeteria and ticket offices.
“When the Benson family purchased the team, there were several commitments made to the fans,” Pelicans President Dennis Lauscha said, listing the team’s new TV contract with Fox Sports New Orleans, its full-scale rebranding, arena renovations and the long-term agreement to call Louisiana home. “This building is one-of-a-kind. We went around the league and looked for the best components of each practice facility and brought it here.”
Fans have responded resoundingly, purchasing more than 12,000 season tickets so far, a franchise record.
“I feel like a kid on Christmas Day,” General Manager Dell Demps said. Many of the players on the Pels roster are now participating in voluntary workouts, which have given many of them a chance to check out the new facility. Pelicans swingman Tyreke Evans, who was acquired by New Orleans this summer, was spotted shooting in the new facility at 8:30 am this past Saturday. All 15 roster members have visited the facility since the beginning of the month.