Friday , Jan , 11 , 2008 C.Y. Ellis

New Orleans Hornets Staying in the Big Easy?

Effectively issuing a challenge to basketball fans in New Orleans and south Louisiana, state officials signed an agreement with the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday that extends the team’s lease for two years but also gives it an option to leave after the 2008-09 season if the market fails to support the club at the box office.

The deal gives the team and state a two-year window to measure the success of the team in the post-Katrina market while simultaneously relieving taxpayers of a potential $25 million obligation to the club. It also places the onus of keeping the team largely on the shoulders of fans, who have been tepid in their support of the Hornets this season despite the club’s hot start. The new deal includes an option for the team to renegotiate or terminate the lease after the 2008-09 season if specific attendance benchmarks are not met. The Hornets can opt out of the agreement if the team fails to draw an average paid attendance of 14,735 for the final five months of this season and next season, a time period starting Dec. 1, 2007, and ending with the final game of the 2008-09 season. Click here for more from the New Orleans Times Picayune.