SBD/January 25, 2011/Franchises

Hornets Meet Attendance Benchmark, But Work Remains To Keep Team In N.O.

Jindal says the next step for the Hornets is to improve season-ticket sales
The Hornets have "surpassed the attendance average of 14,735 fans this season" after drawing a sellout crowd of 17,233 for last night's home game against the Thunder, "meaning the team must remain in New Orleans for at least another year," according to John Reid of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal stressed that "meeting the attendance benchmark was only the first step in keeping the NBA franchise in New Orleans for the foreseeable future." He said that the next step is "getting fans to purchase season tickets, with the goal being 10,000 for next season." Hornets officials indicated that the team has 6,300 season-ticket holders this season, down from 10,000 for the '08-09 campaign. Greg Rusovich, Chair of the New Orleans Business Council and co-Chair of the Hornets Business Council, said that they "plan to make a similar push to solicit support from local businesses as they have since last month to meet the attendance benchmark." The Hornets Business Council received "more than $420,000 from local businesses in pledges to buy tickets in the past five weeks." Rusovich: "We’re going to bring in maybe 20 or 25 leading businesses in the area that are really interested in the Hornets and then we are going to bring in all the regional businesses" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/25). Jindal and Hornets Chair Jac Sperling said that there have "not yet been any serious negotiations about changing or extending the lease." However, both said that they have had "casual discussions about what can be done to strengthen the team's long-term viability in south Louisiana." Jindal previously said that while he "won't divert public funding from state obligations" to the Hornets, he is "willing to consider enhancements to the state-owned arena and amendments to the lease that could enhance team revenues" (AP, 1/24).

TIME FOR FANS TO ANSWER CALL AGAIN: The TIMES-PICAYUNE's Reid said, "I think the fans of New Orleans have answered the call, I feel the fans of New Orleans will answer the call again. ... The fans have shown for the last four years since this lease was amended in 2007 that NBA basketball and NFL football with the Saints can work in this market. The league, which now owns the Hornets, wants to see signs that they can get adequate support for this basketball team, and that comes with these season-ticket sales." The NBA is "going to look much more closer at the season-ticket sales over the next three months than they did for the attendance benchmark" (NOLA.com, 1/24).
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