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Gayle Benson Rumors

Pelicans discussions about new long-term home still in early stages

The New Orleans Pelicans’ lease at Smoothie King Center expires in a little more than two years. On Tuesday, owner Gayle Benson said any discussions about a potential new long-term home for the Pelicans are still in the early stages. “You know, that’s in the future, and we’re trying to look for now,” Benson said at the NFL Annual Meeting in Palm Beach, Florida. “We’re talking about it, but we’ve been talking about it. Hopefully, at the right time we’ll make that decision. But for now, we’re just focusing on renovating what we have. We’re still renovating the Superdome and doing upgrades at the arena.”
She was complimentary of first-year coach Willie Green, who has the Pelicans in position to earn a play-in tournament spot despite star forward Zion Williamson not suiting up in a game this season. “You know, I’m so happy for Willie Green,” Benson said. “He’s such a great guy. He’s just very patient and kind. In the locker room, he’s so patient with the guys. I’m always in the locker room, and every time after the game, win or lose, he talks to them and explains to them why we didn’t win this time. It’s really a lot of fun to see him manage those players, or train them in how to be the best they can be.”

Pelicans president on team leaving New Orleans: 'It’s not going to happen'

A June report in The Athletic from former NBA executive John Hollinger cited league sources that identified the Pelicans as “the most likely team to seek relocation in the coming decade.” Dennis Lauscha, the president of the Pelicans and Saints, had a blunt response to talk of moving the team. “There’s absolutely no way — not on my watch, not on Mrs. Benson’s watch,” said Lauscha. “I was born and raised in New Orleans. It tore my heart out when the Jazz left. The last thing I want is for either of these teams to leave New Orleans. It’s not going to happen.”
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The Pelicans signed a 12-year lease extension in 2012, which included $50 million in revenue-enhancing upgrades to the arena and a commitment from the league to bring the NBA All-Star Game to New Orleans. Team and state officials have already met to start spit-balling possible long-term solutions. Two leading possibilities have emerged: a major renovation of the Smoothie King Center, where the team has played since relocating to New Orleans in 2002, or a new arena.