NEWORLEANS - The NBA Hornets are close to a new 10-year lease agreement that would keep the team in New Orleans through 2024.
''I'm in' has become, I'm in for good,' Hornets President Hugh Weber said about the deal that's now on the table.
The state has agreed to $50 million in renovations to the arena, another $10 million for a team training facility or other improvements and $2.8 million a year for joint marketing ventures with the Hornets, such as year-round programming at Champions Square.
In exchange, the Hornets agreed to drop it's exit options and attendance benchmarks which could cost the state as much as $8 million at the season.
'The benchmarks, that word will be eliminated from our vocabularies,' said team Chairman Jac Sperling. 'Termination rights will be eliminated from the vocabularies and the Hornets would be here for a very long time.'
The new deal requires both legislative approval and new ownership.
Sperling says the team could name a new owner in a matter of weeks.
'We have very high confidence that both those conditions will be satisfied,' said Sperling.
Ron Forman who chairs the state board that oversees the New Orleans Arena said the new deal would save the state at least $72 million in subsidies over the life of the contract.
'We had to stop our general funds paying for professional sports and invest in capital infrastructure that the state owns,' said Forman.
The Hornets are excited about the potential upgrades to the arena. 'It's the kind of changes I think fans will feel like it's a new arena and the fan experience will improve substantially in the building,' said Sperling. Also in the new contract, the Hornets retain naming rights to the arena .
Local business leaders who stepped up to help sell 10,000 season tickets this year are happy there's a new deal in sight and a possible new owner on the horizon.
'Being able to now look forward and have a new long term lease agreement, keeping them here for another ten years, having those jobs, having those economic development assets you can look back and say it really was worth it,' said Hornets Business Council Chairman Greg Rusovich.
The NBA also promises to bring another All Star game to New Orleans.