|Practice center to be ready for Hornets' return by Aug. 1|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 09 May 2007 11:55|
An agreement with Jefferson Parish officials to free up the Alario Center for the team also will cost the state money, although it won't be clear how much until the NBA schedule is released, Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District commission chairman Tim Coulon said Wednesday.
While the Hornets and NBA announced months ago that the team would return to New Orleans full-time for the 2007-08 season, state and team officials never formally contacted the Alario Center until a couple weeks ago.
By then, numerous events had been booked at the busy multipurpose facility.
The Hornets have decided to hold summer workouts for draft prospects in Oklahoma City, where the team has been based since the hurricane, to avoid conflicts with Alario Center events through the end of July.
``There is no issue here. This is an absolute cooperative effort by all parties,'' said SMG regional vice president Doug Thornton, whose company manages the New Orleans Arena and Louisiana Superdome for the state.
The commission will have to use money from its general budget to reimburse Jefferson Parish for Alario Center events canceled in August and beyond. Thornton said total reimbursements were unlikely to be as much as $1 million, meaning it would be a minor expense compared to what the commission spends regularly on stadium maintenance or improvements.
Thornton said the Hornets also have indicated they would be willing to hold some practices next season at the arena to reduce such conflicts.
Under the Hornets' arena lease, the state is required to provide the team with a place to practice.
Thornton said the Hornets also could use the arena for summer workouts if they wished. However, Hornets general manager Jeff Bower said it would be easier for the team to operate out of Oklahoma City until it could move all of its equipment back to the Alario Center.
``Although we appreciate the offer by the LSED, we are quite far along in the process of planning for draft workouts,'' Bower said. ``A change in location at this point would not make sense for us from either an economical or logistical standpoint, nor would it address the issue of moving our equipment without a permanent facility for storage.''
The Hornets have been moving sales and marketing staff back to corporate offices in downtown New Orleans for several months.
Before moving basketball operations staff back, however, the team will require space in the Alario Center to set up additional offices, a weight room and a players' lounge. The Hornets also will require exclusive use of a locker room.
The Alario Center was never meant to be more than a temporary practice site for the Hornets.
Under the agreement that brought the Hornets to New Orleans from Charlotte, N.C., in 2002, the state is supposed to build a permanent training headquarters for the team.
Initial delays resulted from Hornets owner George Shinn changing his mind about a location. He initially agreed to a site in the eastern part of the city, which was starving for development, but later said he wanted it downtown, next to the arena.
Soon after, Katrina struck.
Shinn said in March that he now expects the state to follow through on its contractual obligation to build his team a training center of similar quality to those used by other NBA teams.
The state has approved money to design practice courts that would attach to the arena above its loading dock.
Thornton also has drafted a request to the state Legislature for $15.6 million to pay for construction. The state's costs could decrease to about $9.1 million if the city follows through on its pledge to contribute $6.5 million to the project, Thornton said.
If financing is approved soon, the new training center likely would be finished sometime in 2009, Thornton said, meaning the Hornets would need the Alario Center for the next two seasons.