NEW ORLEANS -- What's the buzz? The Bees are out, replaced by the Louisiana state bird as the mascot for Louisiana's NBA franchise.
Thursday, Hornets owner Tom Benson announced that at the conclusion of the 2012-2013 season, the name of the team will become the New Orleans Pelicans.
"When we purchased the basketball team, it was a priority to change the name to reflect our culture, our community and our resolve. The Pelican does that," said Benson. "Our region has been hard hit in recent years and the one thing that stands out is the resiliency and determination to comeback, to fight and overcome. The Pelican symbolizes that."
Brown pelicans once faced a major threat from hunters who prized their feathers. The bird also suffered tremendous losses as a result of the pesticide DDT which weakened pelican eggs so that they cracked prematurely.
Its comeback was also imperiled when Hurricane Katrina damaged and destroyed pelican breeding grounds off the Louisiana coast in 2005. Federal officials removed the pelican from the endangered species list in 2009.
"The synergy of this name, this bird and the future of our state and region are intertwined and in three, five, ten years from now, it will be not only be a name of a sports franchise but it will also be the face of the continued recovery of our region," said Benson. "We will promote healthy habitats, not only for our youth but for our community, our coast and our wildlife. The Pelican name will do that. It is more than a name. It represents our way of life.”
The Pelicans team colors will be blue, gold and red. Blue is taken from Louisiana's state flag. The team will share the color gold with the New Orleans Saints also owned by Benson. Red represents fraternity and the vibrant color underneath the pelican's beak.
All three colors are also on City of New Orleans flag.
"This identity change was an investment we had to commit to, in order to provide a fresh beginning for our fans," said Hornets Owner/Vice Chairman of the Board Rita Benson Leblanc. "Forging a new and bright future for the Pelicans will bring awareness to the best of New
Orleans, the Gulf South, and provide our fans with a team that they can identify as their own."
The Benson family purchased the Hornets from the NBA last April. The league bought the club from the financially troubled team founder George Shinn in December 2010.
"The city is one of the country's treasures and we really have found the perfect owner," Commissioner David Stern said at the time. "Our goal all along has been to get the Hornets bought by somebody whose commitment to New Orleans would be unrivaled."
Benson hinted from day one that he wanted to rename and rebrand the team. The Hornets name is a holdover from when the team moved from Charlotte, North Carolina to New Orleans in 2002.
Benson introduced the team’s new logos, as well as color scheme, Thursday afternoon. A limited supply of Pelican merchandise will be available exclusively in the team store at the New Orleans Arena.
The Hornets have 14 wins and 28 losses so far this season.