Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward is right to tout billionaire Tom Benson’s ownership of the NBA New Orleans Pelicans. The stability of ownership and the team management are keys to success.
The NBA developmental program began in 2001 with only eight teams. By 2009, the league had doubled in size, fielding 16 teams. This year, the G League will have 26 teams and plans to expand to 30 for the 2018-19 season.
However, team ownership hasn’t always been stable over the past 16 years. Twenty-one teams have shut down or relocated to other cities. The league folded the Mobile Revelers, Roanoke Dazzle, Greenville Groove, Florida Flame and Fayetteville Patriots.
This year, five NBA teams either purchased expansion teams or current ones, which is a good sign. The Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, and Memphis Grizzlies acquired expansion teams. The Orlando Magic bought the Erie BayHawks and will debut the affiliate as the Lakeland Magic. The Minnesota Timberwolves purchased the Iowa Energy and renamed the team the Iowa Wolves.
Our polls show city voters want the team, and the majority favor the mayor working with the private sector to build a new arena.
The devil will be in the details. Mayor Hayward needs to put together a win-win deal for the Pelicans and Pensacola. Time is ticking away. Reportedly he has until the end of August to present the team with his proposal.