Posted on: February 6 2014By
Since it opened in 1999, the New Orleans Arena has been without a corporate name.
But on Thursday, it will officially become the Smoothie King Center.
After extensive negotiations that lasted for nearly a year, the Pelicans and Smoothie King agreed to a 10-year naming rights deal that includes an option for the company to renew for an additional 10 years.
``It’s gigantic,’’ Pelicans president Dennis Lauscha said Wednesday afternoon.``Aside from the branding of the team, besides the practice facility, finding a naming rights partner was key to the long-term financial viability of this franchise in this market.We put it right at the top of the list of things that needed to be accomplished.’’
Financial details of the deal were not disclosed. But the total value of the deal is believed to be estimated around $40 million.
A formal news conference is scheduled for Thursday to announce the deal.
The most recent naming rights deal in the NBA came this past August, when the Portland Trail Blazers sold the naming rights to the Rose Garden to Moda Health, a health and dental insurance company that operates in Oregon, Washington and Alaska. The facility is now called the Moda Center.
Smoothie King is headquartered in Metairie and the company has more than 650 locations in the United States and Asia.
The Pelicans considered offers from two other undisclosed companies, along with Smoothie King. But Lauscha said Smoothie King won out because it was a local company with aggressive growth plans similar to the franchise’s objectives.
``This really gives us a great opportunity for us to grow our brand internationally and domestically from New Orleans,’’ said Wan Kim, Smoothie King owner and CEO, who purchased the company in 2012.
New Orleans Arena has been the Hornets/Pelicans only home since the franchise relocated from Charlotte, N.C. in 2002.
Before the new naming rights deal could be consummated, the NBA hired an independent agency to test all of Smoothie King’s products in order to make sure they met the league’s policy against banned supplements.
``To test all of those products so that they approve it, took a very long time and a great deal of investment from Smoothie King,’’ said Rita Benson LeBlanc, the Pelicans vice chairman of the board.
Smoothie King will get worldwide exposure quickly. The Feb. 16 NBA All-Star Star Game will be played at the facility.The All-Star Game, which is televised and broadcast on radio, will collectively reach fans in 215 countries and territories, according to the NBA.
But the first national exposure will come Friday night when the Pelicans play the Minnesota Timberwolves in a nationally televised game on ESPN.
Smoothie King president Tom O’Keefe said they will have signs up with the new name inside the Arena for Friday's game.
Until Wednesday’s deal, the Pelicans were one of only three teams in the NBA that played in a arena that didn’t bear a corporate name.
Now, Madison Square Garden, where the New York Knicks play, and the Palace of Auburn Hills, which is Detroit Pistons home arena, are the only remaining NBA arena’s without a naming rights deal.
Since Saints/Pelicans owner Tom Benson purchased the Pelicans for $338 million from the NBA in April 2012, he’s pushed to get a naming rights deal.