Pelicans show off new practice facility

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Pelicans’ new practice facility is still three months from being completed, but owner Tom Benson is so excited, he couldn’t wait to show it off.

Benson, his wife, Gayle, coach Monty Williams and other team officials on Wednesday led a media tour of the facility, which is located next to the Saints’ practice facility on Airline Drive.

“From what I’ve seen, this will be the finest facility in the (NBA),” Benson said. “I haven’t seen every facility, but from what I’ve seen and know about, I don’t think anybody has anything like this.

“As time goes on, new technology goes into effect.”

The 50,000-square-foot building, which officials say will be state of the art, is being constructed next to the Saints offices, although the buildings join in back. And that’s one of the main things Benson said he likes about it.

“There’s no other other community that has a (major professional sports) football team and a basketball team with by the same owner,” he said. “And, we have all of (the facilities) in the same place.

“We’ll get to talk to everybody, and it will make a big difference.”

An area separated from the Saints’ offices by an atrium will house the Pelicans’ business offices. The basketball practice facility is to the right, just past the cafeteria that is now for the Saints.

Although it’s all mostly concrete and steel beams, Williams, whose Hornets, the team’s former name, went 27-55 last season, appeared eager for its completion, if not excited. He said it should help in the recruitment of players who can help the Pelicans get better.

“When we had free agents come in last year, one of the things they mentioned was that we didn’t have a practice facility,” Williams said. “We’ll have everything that all the players want — a facility where they can get better, a place where you can hang your hat permanently, a great city and a team that is going to continue to get better every single year.

“When you look at a facility like this, you feel you can get better, and that’s what players want.”

Upon entering, one immediately steps into an area that will house the dressing room, weight room and training area, with cold and hot pools.

After entering, a turn right led the contingent into the area near the courts, of which there will be two. The north wall will be where the general manager and coaches’ offices will be located, with windows facing the courts, said Sammy Sparacello, superintendent of Woodward Design and Build, which is constructing the $16 million facility. The windows throughout will be made of impact glass, just in case a pass misses its mark.

The west wall will have bleachers made into it and will be curtained, allowing for natural light, Sparacello said. The north side also will have a large VIP conference room.

The walls will be insulated and the ceiling baffled and draped to absorb sound.

However, none of that may impress the players as much as the floor. The better facilities around the league have courts that are kind to the players’ legs. That is particularly important in an 82-game season.

According to Sparacello, the Pelicans will like the feel of their practice court, which will be made of maple and will have the “give” players like.

“The floor will have three layers of flooring,” said Sparacello. “It actually has some little rubber pads under it that are scattered throughout. So the little rubber pads will give it some movement.”

Since coming to New Orleans 10 years ago, the Hornets have practiced at the Alario Center in Westwego.

“Even though the Alario Center wasn’t what most teams have, we’re grateful for it,” Williams said. “We had a lot of great times there.”

However, it was clear he sees this development as a big step in his, and the franchise’s, quest to contend. It will be ready in August.

“As a player, you want a first-class training room, first-class courts, locker rooms that guys feel comfortable in, offices, other things that other teams have,” Williams said. “But nobody else has a cafeteria on their grounds. Nobody else is going to walk outside and see coach (Sean) Payton or (Marques) Colston in the parking lot. We can talk about things and pull for each other. And I think that’s all what makes this place special.”

Notes

Williams said he anticipates Eric Gordon being with the team next season. He said Gordon played at the end of the season with soreness in his left ankle, on which he had minor surgery to clean out. ... Pelicans players already have begun development workouts at the Alario Center, Williams said. He said power forward Anthony Davis is healed and he is in Chicago working out twice a day, lifting weights and working on skills, with assistant coach/director of player performance Carlos Daniel, and will be in New Orleans next week.