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Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS -- Tom Benson's expected purchase of the NBA Hornets is still the talk of the town.

Wednesday, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, the state board that runs the Superdome and New Orleans Arena, started its meeting discussing it as well.

SMG Executive VP Doug Thornton told the board it makes sense for Benson to own both the Hornets and Saints.

'I think it resolves a lot of the potential sponsor and advertising conflicts,' said Thornton. 'It resolves some operational issues with respect to Champions Square, parking and traffic and things like that and scheduling.'

The lease agreement locks the Hornets in New Orleans through 2024, and calls for $50 million in major renovations to the Arena and another $10 million toward a team training facility.

LSED Chairman Ron Forman said, 'We will be starting conversations fairly quickly with Mr. Benson and his team to talk about how we handle that next step.'

The next step is determining where to build the facility. Right now, the team practices at the Alario Center in Westwego.

When the Hornets arrived in the Crescent City nearly 10 years ago, the city set aside some property in New Orleans East for the training center. There was also a plan to build it next door to the Arena.

Forman said when and if a practice facility is built, it will be state of the art and help create jobs.

'There is a lot of economic stimulus going on in the sports district,' said Forman. 'We can see that with the vast improvements to the Superdome, money getting ready to be spent in the Arena, Champions Square, the Hyatt Hotel, the streetcars down Loyola.'

Some say the practice center could help attract a world-class sports medicine program to the city's burgeoning bio-medical corridor.

Doing so could also help offset the estimated $20 million price tag on an NBA-quality facility.

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