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New Orleans Pelicans Practice Facility Tour
The New Orleans Pelicans have been using the new practice facility for a few weeks, but last week they gave a tour of the franchise’s new jewel.
The Practice Facility Saga
A practice facility was part of the deal that brought the Hornets to New Orleans, but the building did not materialize. When the franchise resumed full-time play in New Orleans, the practice facility commitment was given up in exchange for the familiar attendance benchmarks clause in the prior lease. As part of the sale of the franchise to Tom Benson, the NBA required a few things, including sufficient public funding to build a practice facility. Of course, this funding was secured. $10m in public funding was committed, but the organization kicked in several million more to make the facility one of the largest and finest in the NBA.
Overview of the Facility
The Practice Facility is located at the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans Headquarters at 5800 Airline Drive. New office space was added to the current office area. Also, the museum and other areas have had some Pelicans touches added.
The practice facility itself was placed on the same campus as the New Orleans Saints Training Facility, which is owned by the LSED. The campus is the only one of its kind, with headquarters and training facilities for both a NFL franchise and a NBA franchise. As noted, the organizations share some office space and facilities, including a nice cafeteria. Part of the old Voodoo practice facility was incorporated in the new Pelicans facility. Also, the security and parking was reconfigured to accommodate the new structure.
The Practice Facility is more than just a place to practice as a team or individual. The building includes spaces for training, meeting, and eating. There are offices, locker rooms, and places to take care of business related to basketball.
The Practice Facility is really the home of the Pelicans.
This is where Monty’s office is, along with his locker. The players and coaches will spend more time here than any other team-controlled space. They will have 24 hour access to the facility. When players can make themselves at home, spending time together there helps to build camaraderie, according to General Manager Dell Demps. Many other factors play a role in this, as well, but so far they have had all players report to the facility. Tyreke Evans even said Dell “undersold” the facility to him. Evans was also working in the facility on a Saturday morning recently, highlighting the utility of such a facility compared to one that is shared with other tenants.
This is the first time the organization has been on a single campus, adding to the air of stability that is settling around the franchise.
At a cost of about $16m, the 50,000 square foot facility has been nearly completed in terms of construction and outfitting. It is not clear if the the $16m went in to the practice facility only or the new office space, as well, but if it all went into the practice space, that is about $320 / sq.ft. to construct and outfit. This cost in not different from expectations based on construction and outfitting of other specialized buildings that require access restrictions, highly-mixed intended uses, and must be very clean.
It should be noted that costs to lease space downtown and the Alario center would have been ongoing costs to the franchise. This lowers the net cost of the purchase by some amount. So, for those balking at the cost to taxpayers, consider the entire cost and benefit situation rather than reacting to the large cost of this one transaction. Not everyone has to agree with the outlay, but the proper figures should be debated.
The team studied other facilities and took the best elements from those, plus their own touches, to create their facility, the second largest in the NBA.
Details of the Facility
Photos of the facility can be found here on pelicans.com. If you look closely in a couple of the pictures, you can see one of your (least?) favorite Bourbon Street Shots writers.
The northwest corner of the facility has a reception area that leads in to a medium-sized conference room. The conference room floor has a basketball court surface and windows looking both outside and into the main practice area.
The major feature of the Practice Facility is two full-sized practice courts complete with team logos, each running north-south (as much as anything in south Louisiana does). The courts are spaced from one another and the walls to allow foot traffic or standing groups of coaches, players, or bystanders. The west end of the court area features built-in bleacher space for spectators, including season ticket holders (504 525 4667). There is a goal at each end of each court with shot clocks, for a total of 4 such goals. There is an additional goal on the side of each court, the west side of the west court, the east side of the east court, as well. The walls also sport small scoreboards.
Natural light comes in from the north side of the high ceiling to supplement the ample electric lighting.
The north wall is lined with offices for team officials. Each office has a window that allows the occupant to view both courts when their door is closed. The offices are spacious, and Dell’s office has enough room to hold meetings.
The east wall has some small meeting rooms that overlook the courts. Here, coaches would prepare for practices or discuss how practice went. Ball racks and equipment stations sit below the windows.
Just south of these rooms (toward the river), a door leads to the weight and training area. There is room for cardiovascular training that overlooks the practice courts. This will allow a player relegated to training on a bike to still study the on-court activity. Part of the area is a basketball court surface, allowing individual drills. Besides the free and machine weight machines, there is room for stretching and other activities. TV’s and healthy foods are also provided, and natural light supplements that generated in the room.
Over the door heading back to the courts hangs a jersey of Baton Rouge native Bobby Phills that was brought over from the Alario Center.
The adjacent trainer’s room has several tables for players to get treatment. The room is loaded with medical supplies and equipment.
From the training area heading east, a hallway heads north-south while another continues east. To the south is the players’ entrance. As they enter and leave, there is an autograph room where players can sign balls, jerseys, etc. for the team to distribute. Continuing east is a bank of pigeonholes for mail and a series of three locker rooms. One is a small locker room for visiting players, such as those getting a tryout. Another is for staff. This is the old Voodoo locker room (with upgrades). Each coach, Monty included, has a locker here. The final locker room is for the players. Each player has his own massive locker with drawers, shelves, a bar, and doors to keep it all looking neat. Each player’s locker has his name and number above it. There is also seating by each locker and common area seating and tables. Other facilities include the now-famous barber chair (no word on who is a barber . . .), `facilities’ at the appropriate height for basketball player, a steam room, a hot tub, and a cold tub.
The team has its own equipment room and its own outdoor field behind the Saints indoor facility. The old Voodoo net is still affixed at one end. Here, the players can run, sprint, and train outdoors for a change of pace. There is also a small hill for the players to work into their routines.
Back on the north wall behind the player’s locker room, the players have their own small eating area. It’s stocked with healthy food and drinks and will have breakfast for players every morning. Each table has a couple bottles of hot sauce, as well. Lunches are served in the large, common cafeteria.
Back west toward the weight room is the team’s theater. It has a TV, white boards, and a large projector. It features stadium seating with about 30 comfortable chairs with cup holders.
Small appointments are still needed, such a photos of the team and some signs. The facility, as noted, is fully operational.
- Dell Demps recently returned from a scouting trip. He also noted that the team would likely add some players for training camp, indicating that each would have a chance to make the team.
- Dell is sporting a light beard.
- My favorite part of the tour was when a genuinely excited Dell told everyone how nice the facility was and how excited he was to show people. He said it would be like “Willy Wonka.”
- One of the more common questions was some variation on “Why do they need a barber’s chair?” I don’t think the team needs one, per se. Many companies, however, look for ways to distinguish themselves with little touches. If that’s a barber’s chair, so be it. Also, many companies provide certain benefits to their employees to keep them on site and on the job, turning travel time and distraction into productivity. If the chair does this for the players, then it is a great idea.
- Tom Benson said “3,000 to go” on the subject of tickets. With the team reportedly selling 12,000 season tickets (likely season ticket equivalents rather than full season tickets, but this could not be confirmed), the could indicate that the team is in fact leaving certain blocks of tickets for most games to allow for groups outings and walk-up sales. If so, this is a healthy strategy. The reported record for the team is good news in any case.