With the two-year attendance figures for the New Orleans Hornets still below the average the franchise must maintain in order to assure its short-term future in Louisiana — and the deadline to reach that average approaching — various business leaders in “The Big Easy” are trying to snap up enough tickets to save the NBA franchise.
The Hornets, which were officially bought by the NBA on Monday, December 20 following the financial difficulties of owner George Shinn, must average at least 14,735 fans at the 17,188-seat New Orleans Arena over a two-year period or else they can opt out of their lease at the Arena by paying the state a $10 million relocation fee. The Hornets have averaged 14,437 fans since the start of last season and must reach the magic figure by Monday, January 31.
The Business Council of New Orleans announced earlier this week it would buy $50,000 worth of seats at New Orleans Arena in a two-step process that it hopes will bridge the gap and allowing the Hornets to stay in the city. Bob Brown, the managing director of the Business Council, told The Louisiana Weekly newspaper that the Council will first spend $30,000 on 2,100 tickets that it will distribute to non-profits, which will give the tickets to fans who can’t normally afford to attend games. The rest of the money would be spent as necessary in the days leading up to the deadline.
“Our job as an organization, and our larger job as citizens of this community, is that we remain in the vanguard of first-class cities by having this professional franchise to go along with the [defending Super Bowl champion] Saints, and all the other things that make a city and a community a special place to be,” Brown told the paper.
In addition, other business leaders have formed the Hornets Business Council and have asked area businesses to, according to The Louisiana Weekly, “…become ‘financially committed’ to the team.” At least one of those leaders, attorney Morris Bart, has expressed an interest in buying a 10 percent stake in the team.
The Hornets have nine home games left between now and January 31 and are coming off one of their best gates of the season last night, Wednesday, December 22. A total of 15,423 people walked through the turnstiles and watched the Hornets beat the New Jersey Nets, 105-91. It was the second-biggest crowd of the season in New Orleans, behind only the sellout for the game against the Miami Heat Friday, November 5.
The Hornets’ long-term future will remain murky even if they reach the mandatory attendance figure over the next five weeks. The team’s lease at the New Orleans Arena runs out at the end of the 2013-14 season.