Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward yesterday asked that Escambia Board of County Commissioners to work out a deal to host the G-League team of the New Orleans Pelicans. SMG, the company that runs the Pensacola Bay Center, told the commissioners that it would cost $5 million in improvements to host the NBA affiliate and continue to be the home of the Pensacola Ice Flyers. Operating losses would increase between $337,000 to $651,000 – the losses have been more than $1 million a year.
Mayor Hayward had no plan to deal with the price tag, even though he has had the request for proposal since March 31 and been the primary point man for working the deal with the NBA team. Several times yesterday, the commissioners asked him how much money the city was willing to put up and got no commitment from Hayward. They pointed out that the city has more reserves than the county.
“I think it’s a win,” Hayward said. He added that he believed the community, county commission, city council and his office were doing “great things” and hoped they and the teams could “collaborate” to bring what he described as another “amenity” to the area.
Commissioner Steven Barry even suggested that the county give the Bay Center to the City of Pensacola, but the Pensacola mayor didn’t seem interested.
In the end, the BCC voted to allow county staff to continue negotiating with the city and Pelicans officials on the use of the Bay Center. After watching the BCC meetings yesterday, it would appear the negotiations will go nowhere unless Mayor Hayward or the Pelicans come to the table with money.