Pelicans adjust Thursday travel plans to Philadelphia due to Eagles championship parade

by Jim Eichenhofer

More than the residents of any other U.S. city, New Orleanians are accustomed to navigating their way around parades. What the New Orleans Pelicans will encounter Thursday evening, however, may not be comparable to anything they’ve seen in quite some time.

A Friday game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Wells Fargo Center means the Pelicans must travel to the City of Brotherly Love on Thursday, coinciding with the first-ever Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl parade. As it turns out, the parade route ends near Logan Square, which is adjacent to the Pelicans’ team hotel in downtown Philly.

In an odd coincidence, New Orleans (28-25) also played a game in Minneapolis on the eve of Super Bowl LII, which necessitated a few adjustments to the team’s normal gameday plans. Excluding players and coaches, Pelicans staff members were forced to vacate their suburban Minneapolis hotel rooms at 1 p.m. Saturday, even though tip-off wasn’t until 8 p.m. in Target Center.

“We’ve been to the Super Bowl, and now we’re going to the parade,” Pelicans third-year head coach Alvin Gentry said after practice this afternoon, laughing. “That should be great. I don’t think there’s ever been an NBA team that had to endure going to the Super Bowl – staying outside the city (due to lack of available hotel rooms) – and now we get to go to the parade on Thursday. Good timing.

“Can you imagine Philadelphia on Thursday, trying to get to a hotel downtown – and the parade ends right at our hotel? That should be exciting.”

As soon as the Eagles clinched a 41-33 win over New England on Sunday night, Pelicans Travel Coordinator/Assistant Equipment Manager Kory Johnson began exploring contingency plans for the team’s trip to Philadelphia. Johnson hoped the Eagles would schedule their parade celebration as early as Tuesday or Wednesday – the ’09 New Orleans Saints held theirs on a Tuesday – before learning that it will coincide with the Pelicans’ arrival. As a result, the Pelicans moved their Thursday flight departure from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Central, in the hopes that they will land in Pennsylvania around 7:20 Eastern, after the festivities have concluded.

One problem: Philadelphia has never hosted an NFL championship parade before, so predictions on when the city’s streets will no longer be congested and open to vehicle traffic Thursday are merely educated guesses. A total of 5.5 million people are expected to attend the historic event. Local officials are saying that roads near Logan Square will be re-opened at approximately 6 p.m. Eastern, but the operative word there seems to be “approximately.”

“As far as we know right now, the parade is supposed to be over and have passed our hotel by the time we land,” said Johnson, who’s had to examine alternate airport-to-hotel routes. “But that doesn’t account for foot traffic in the area that might cause the roads to still be blocked. As everyone knows, Philly fans are very passionate. We’re going to have to take into consideration whatever we can do to get to our hotel as quickly as possible.”