September 17, 2013
Having recently returned from a basketball scouting trip in Europe, New Orleans Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps was like a kid on Christmas morning when he walked into the team’s newly opened practice facility. After getting the chance to look around and examine the 50,000-square-foot building, Demps now feels like that same child on Dec. 26 – one who absolutely loves every present he received.
“To come back and see this place, it’s unbelievable,” Demps said Tuesday afternoon. “You could go on and on about everything this does, from a training standpoint and giving the players everything they need to be successful.”
The team’s three-year GM, who’s completely turned over New Orleans’ roster since his arrival in 2010, took on a new role Tuesday afternoon, serving as a tour guide for local media inside the practice facility. Crescent City reporters were shown several of the building’s amenities, such as its spacious locker rooms; a 28-seat theater for watching video; a barber’s chair for players; a player’s lounge and much more.
“We believe we have the finest facility in the NBA,” Pelicans Owner Tom Benson said. “With that, we’re looking forward to having one of the finest basketball teams. This is a first-class facility.”
“When we bought the team, we planned to build a championship from the ground up,” said Rita Benson LeBlanc, Pelicans owner/vice chairman of the board. “We have all kinds of extra things to make sure our players are the happiest in the NBA. All kinds of creature comforts. We even have a barber’s chair, so that they can get spiffed up and feel great about themselves.”
As part of the franchise’s agreement to move to New Orleans in 2002, plans were in place to build the team its own practice facility, but that never materialized. Upon purchasing the club in 2012, the Benson family immediately set into motion plans for the structure. The facility is one aspect of drastic improvements that have taken place over the past year affecting numerous aspects of the organization.
“When the Benson family purchased the team, there were several commitments made to the fans,” Pelicans President Dennis Lauscha said, listing the team’s new TV contract, its full-scale rebranding, arena renovations and the long-term agreement to call Louisiana home. “This building is one-of-a-kind. We went around the league and looked for the best components of each practice facility and brought it here.”
The team’s players have quickly taken notice. Demps said all 15 roster members have visited New Orleans since the facility officially opened Sept. 4. At 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Demps stopped by the facility and noticed that someone was working out on one of the gym’s two hardwood courts. It was Pelicans swingman Tyreke Evans, who was acquired by New Orleans this summer.
When Demps discussed the possibility of Evans coming to the Pelicans in early July, the GM told the player that one perk of signing here was the team’s gleaming practice facility that would open in September. After getting in his early-morning Saturday workout, Evans was undeniably impressed with his new workplace.
“You actually undersold it,” Evans told Demps.