SBD/Issue 56/Franchises

Hornets Have Opt Out Option If Attendance Does Not Improve

Hornets Averaging 14,214 Through First Eight 
Games At New Orleans Arena This Season

SMG Regional VP Doug Thornton, whose company manages New Orleans Arena, said that if the Hornets "do not average crowds of at least 14,213" for the next 13 home games, the franchise "can opt out of its current lease agreement" with the state of Louisiana, according to John Reid of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. The Hornets and the state "amended their lease agreement in 2007 to extend it through 2014, but an attendance benchmark of 14,735 was implemented." The franchise "can opt out of the pact if the benchmark is not made over a period of two consecutive years during the agreement." The Hornets "reached the mark for the two-year period that ended in 2009, and the requirement was thought to have been lifted after the state was not required to pay the franchise inducements." But Thornton Monday said that the benchmark "remains in place." Despite a franchise-record eight-game winning streak to start the season, the Hornets "have experienced a decline in attendance." Crowds have "dipped to an average of 14,214 over the first eight games," ranking 25th in the league. The team last season averaged 15,072 for 42 games. If the Hornets "fail to reach the 14,735 benchmark average, they would be free to relocate but would have to pay the state a $10 million exit penalty." They also would have to "inform the state of their intention no later than March 1, 2011." Hornets President Hugh Weber said that the team has "continued to talk with the state since the amended lease was finalized." He added that the Hornets "will continue to have dialogue with the state, and they are not pushing to leave the city" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 11/30).  

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