By Ben Golliver
Pelicans it is.
The New Orleans Hornets officially announced the adoption of the "Pelicans" nickname on Thursday.
The nickname switch, first reported in December, will occur after the 2012-13 season. The change will be accompanied by a red, blue and gold color scheme that will replace the current teal, purple and blue design. New jersey designs will be released "in the coming months," according to a team press release.
Louisiana is known as the "Pelican State." The brown pelican is the state bird and it adorns both the state flag and state seal. New Orleans also had a Double A minor league baseball known as the Pelicans for more than 70 years.
"It was very important to me and our staff that we change the name of this club to something that represented New Orleans, Louisiana," owner Tom Benson said in a promotional video. "We worked on it. It wasn't something that just came out of the blue, overnight. We worked on it for a long period of time. You just can't have a better name for Louisiana and New Orleans than the Pelican. It's the perfect representative."
The Pelicans name beat out more than 100 other possible monikers during a lengthy brainstorming process.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu was pleased with the selection.
"I'm pumped up about the Pelicans," he said during a news conference Thursday.
Team broadcaster Joel Meyers suggested that fans will chant "Let's go Pels!" to root on the squad next season.
The Hornets name came with the franchise when former owner George Shinn relocated the team to New Orleans in 2002 after 14 years in Charlotte. Shinn then sold the Hornets to the NBA in 2010. When Benson purchased the team from the NBA in April 2012, he expressed a desire to find a name that better reflected the city of New Orleans.
Team executive Rita Benson LeBlanc elaborated on the importance of the pelican as a local image.
"There are two symbols you see everywhere in New Orleans or Louisiana, that is the fleur de lis and the pelican," she said. "It's an aggressive, beautiful, swift bird. It's truly been an inspiration for us to find something that epitomizes everything that is powerful, aggressive and historic to our community."
The pelican has been on the endangered species list and thousands of the birds were killed during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Images of the oil-soaked birds served as a symbol of the environmental damage caused by the 2010 disaster.
"[The pelican] is a symbol of the state," Benson said. "It's a symbol of our resolve, to come back. We've done it, that's what's great."
The franchise's new logo incorporates the fleur de lis, which is also associated with the NFL's New Orleans Saints, also owned by Benson. The logo includes the words "New Orleans" and "Pelicans" in all capitals and white lettering. The pelican's distinctive beak is red and reaches over a blue basketball while a simple wing design, in gold, flanks the ball on both sides. The background of the logo is dark blue and red.
LeBlanc explained the thinking behind the new color scheme.
"[The red] inspires the passion, the blue is loyalty and the gold is the gleam of championships that we hope to bring to our state," she said.
Graphic Designer Rodney Richardson explained the work behind the logo to Hornets.com.
"Our desire was to bring out the characteristics of the pelican that have caused it to stand as a symbol for this city and region," he said. "The focus, beauty and strength it displays when it dives from the air into the water for its food – we wanted to capture that strength and focus. And as it represents new life, survival and resourcefulness, NEW ORLEANS rests on its wings. References to the style, flourish and heritage of the city are subtly ingrained in the mark."
Richardson also designed a number of alternate logos: one that merges the pelican image with the fleur de lis, one based on New Orleans' "Crescent City" nickname, and one with the "NOLA" abbreviation. In December, the NBA’s attorney filed trademarks on five potential team names (Pelicans, Rougarou, Mosquitos, Swamp Dogs and Bullsharks), but the preference for the Pelicans moniker was widely reported.