Today marks four months since Mayor Ashton Hayward received the request for proposal from the New Orleans Pelicans to host the NBA team’s proposed G-League affiliate.
As of yet, the mayor has released few details about his plan to host the team or what are the actual demands being made by the Pelicans.
The mayor privately has told the county commissioners the RFP was flexible, and he had room for negotiation. He has told the PNJ that Shreveport is the only team left in the competition, and he has until the end of August to submit to the Pelicans his final proposal.
Last Friday – 17 weeks after he received the RFP – Mayor Hayward asked for a liaison from the county to work out the proposal. He told the daily newspaper that he was frustrated that the commission hadn’t responded officially to his June 9. However, that letter didn’t ask the BCC for any help. It merely explained his trip to New Orleans to pitch the city. See letter.
The closest sentence to an “ask” was: “I look forward to the opportunity of working on the next steps of this process together.”
From June 9-July 28, Mayor Hayward, hotelier Jay Patel and Pelicans official Stephen Pate have met privately with some of the commissioners, but the mayor hasn’t told them what he wants to do—only that he wants the team.
Few commissioners appear ready to step into the Pelican quagmire so late in the process. The Patel-financed arena is getting pushback from his fellow hoteliers who oppose any increase in bed taxes. The Ice Flyers and their fans are concerned about any impact on their schedule.
The simplest solution would be for Mayor Hayward to get a quote from the Pensacola Bay Center for 25 game nights. He can figure out how the city and Pelicans can pay for the necessary renovations to the locker rooms and work out how he wants to build a new arena inside the city limits. (Note: Blue Wahoo Stadium was built without County funding or bed tax dollars)
If he wants to use bed tax to help pay for the arena, Mayor Hayward can negotiate with the hoteliers and bring the deal to the Escambia County Commission.
Training/practice facility? We’ve been told the Pelicans rejected putting their million-dollar players in a community center as Mayor Hayward outlined in his original proposal. It’s possible the G-League players will live in New Orleans, practice at the Pelicans facility in Metairie, La. and bus to their home games in Pensacola.