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Pelicans first-rate facility produces smiles, confidence

Video: Inside look at Pelicans Training Complex in Metairie, La.

"I may be biased, but I think is the best."

The words of New Orleans Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps at Tuesday's preview of the brand new 50,000 square foot training facility of the NBA team, located at the Saints facility in Metairie.

Of course, that is now the Saints and Pelicans facility.

The new facility includes two courts, seating for observers, offices, a training room, a theater with raised seating and a big screen, an autograph room, lockers for current players replete with sofas and monitors, lockers for those who are trying out or transient, a weight room, offices, hot tubs, cold tubs, a sauna, a fully stocked kitchen and much more. The offices include glass windows to the parking lot and to the courts, allowing rooms with a view for executives and coaches.

While I have not had the privilege of seeing many other NBA training facilities (just two), there is little doubt that the Pelicans enjoy perhaps the best situation of any NBA team.

First, there is the obvious--a brand new training facility with practice courts with facilities that are second to none. Then, there is the cafeteria that the Pelicans share with the New Orleans Saints, a training table, if you will. The unique nature of blending an NFL team and an NBA team into one campus is a definite advantage, a recruiting tool. So is the facility. The food is exceptional.

Part of the facility encompasses the former space occupied by the New Orleans VooDoo, when Tom Benson owned the Arena League team. Outside, the Pelicans have been running on the artificial turf practice field formerly used by the VooDoo, as well as a hill behind the practice field. There are a few minor items still to be added to make it a finished product but for all intents and purposes, the facility is complete, so much so that the team will hold training camp at the facility beginning October 1.

Clearly, Benson has fully invested in the franchise. When you add the improvements to New Orleans Arena, the Pelicans are suddenly an attractive destination. From this point forward, the onus is on Demps and coach Monty Williams to produce.

Adding Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Anthony Morrow were bold moves aimed at making the team an instant winner, which Benson wants. He is not in this to rebuild for another two years, he wants to win now and he has put his money where his mouth is, along with the state of Louisiana. Of the cost of the $15 million facility, Benson forked out $5 million while the state put up $10 million.

The franchise has come a long, long way. There will always be a debt of gratitude for George Shinn and Ray Wooldridge for bringing the franchise here from Charlotte in 2002 but once Wooldridge was out of the picture, it was clear that Shinn was a K-Mart shopper, as opposed to Saks Fifth Avenue.

The wilderness followed with the ownership of the team by the league. The team was hamstrung to do anything productive and the future of the franchise twisted in the wind. The team had the long haul daily to the Alario Center in Westwego, a definite disadvantage to the current players and prospective players.

When Benson stepped in, the picture changed dramatically.

The team has a new identity, new colors, new ownership, an expanded, improved television deal, a renewed arena and a new training facility. By NBA standards, New Orleans is small market, below radar on national telecasts and in attendance, to this point. With the improvements and changes, New Orleans has a chance to compete with the big boys of the league.

The smile on the face of Demps was persistent throughout the tour he conducted for the media Wednesday, like a kid with the cherished new toy he desired. Smiles were evident on the faces of Benson, Rita Benson LeBlanc, Dennis Lauscha and Mickey Loomis as well. Here is hoping that all are smiling by the end of the 2013-2014 season.


New Orleans Pelicans