Jason Smith among Pelicans players familiar with Smoothie King
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Among the three municipalities where the New Orleans Pelicans play home games, practice or embark on team flights, there are a whopping 31 Smoothie King stores. As a result, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that Pelicans center Jason Smith has been a customer at some of the Louisiana-based company’s stores in either New Orleans (15 options), Metairie (10) or Kenner (six).
The longest-tenured New Orleans player, in his fourth season here, Smith and his teammates now will play home games in the Smoothie King Center. The 17,000-seat venue was officially renamed from the New Orleans Arena on Thursday.
“I’ve had Smoothie King a couple times,” Smith said. “It’s a great product. It’s a nice, refreshing treat. There are so many in the area. That’s why it’s nothing out of the ordinary for me. I see them all over the place. It’s good to have (a building name) that’s familiar with the area.”
The Smoothie King company now has more than 600 locations, including stores in 31 states, but it was founded in Louisiana in 1973. Its current owner, Wan Kim, initially considered moving the company’s headquarters when he purchased Smoothie King in 2012, but he decided to remain in the Pelican State. He and his family now live in Metairie, the New Orleans suburb that hosts the practice facilities and offices for the Pelicans and Saints.
“I think it’s a good thing, having that company and organization, which started in New Orleans,” said point guard Brian Roberts of the tie-in between Smoothie King and the Pelicans. “It just goes back to showing the pride of Louisiana and New Orleans. So that’s a big deal and it’s a good thing for the city and the state.”
Since its opening in 1999, the team’s downtown basketball stadium – which also hosts numerous concerts and other major events – had been known by the nondescript New Orleans Arena tag. Smith believes the new moniker may be more fitting for a city known for its flair and local flavor.
“It gives it a little more pizazz or flash,” Smith said. “New Orleans Arena doesn’t really have that much of a bang or boom to it. I’m excited about it, just because they again got something that was very New Orleans-based and Louisiana-based, with Smoothie King. It’s just like naming the team Pelicans. I didn’t realize (pelicans) had so much impact on the city or state (before the nickname change). Afterward, you see the documentaries on how pelicans are so intertwined with the city.”
Smith has likely experienced more franchise-altering changes than any NBA player since he arrived in New Orleans via a 2010 trade from Philadelphia, with the latest being the renaming of his home stadium.
“There are a lot of things that have been transformed,” Smith said. “We’ve gotten a new owner, a new name, a new practice facility and now we have a new name for the arena. It’s been exciting for me to go through that process with this team. It’s been kind of fun. And I think it’s all change for the better.”