The New Orleans Arena will now be known as the "Smoothie King Center." (Layne Murdoch Jr./Getty Images)
The Pelicans announced Thursday that the New Orleans Arena will now be known as the "Smoothie King Center" after team owner Tom Benson reached a naming rights agreement with the juice bar chain.
“When we purchased the franchise and became the Pelicans, we were establishing a new winning tradition for our hometown NBA team," Benson, who bought the Pelicans in 2012, said in a statement. "Introducing our home court as the Smoothie King Center is one of the goals we set when we purchased the team and we’re excited to partner with a locally-incepted company in Smoothie King.”
The naming rights agreement runs for 10 years, with an option for renewal for an additional 10 years.
Smoothie King sells "fresh-blended smoothies" in the United States, the Cayman Islands, South Korea and Singapore. The company's first location opened in New Orleans in 1973.
As part of the new agreement, Smoothie King logos and signage will appear on the building's exterior, on the court, on the scoreboard and in other areas around the arena. New Orleans is set to host the 2014 All-Star Weekend from Feb. 13-16, and the company promises that attendees will be "greeted by two 20-foot-high Smoothie King cups" at the arena's main entrance.
An exterior look at the new "Smoothie King Center" in New Orleans. (SmoothieKing.com)
“Smoothie King and the NBA are a perfect fit,” Smoothie King CEO Wan Kim, who purchased the company in 2012, said in a statement. “Both organizations are global brands that continue to grow in status and stature. Smoothie King supports the NBA and the New Orleans Pelicans franchise, and we think this partnership reflects our joint interests in nutrition, health and athletics from an international to a local perspective.”
Here's the company's creation story, as told on SmoothieKing.com.
It was the late 1960’s. Trying to remedy his allergies and low blood sugar, Steve Kuhnau began experimenting with mixing real fruit, nutrients and proteins in a blender at home. A little of this, a little of that, and soon enough, his concoctions began to have a huge impact on his health. And that’s how he came to create the original nutritional smoothie. In 1973 Steve opened a health food store, selling vitamins along with his healthful drinks, and Smoothie King was born.
The Smoothie King Center name certainly stands out from the pack when it comes to NBA building sponsors, as a vast majority of the league's naming rights deals involve banks, major airlines, technology and communication firms, and energy companies. However, Denver's "Pepsi Center" -- home to the Nuggets -- is also named after a beverage.
Here's a closer look at the company's new exterior logo.
This version will appear on the bottom of the scoreboard.
New Orleans Arena had been one of just two NBA buildings -- along with the Palace of Auburn Hills, home of the Pistons -- that did not have naming rights sponsors. The Blazers, who had also been without a naming rights sponsor for some time, changed the name of the Rose Garden to the "Moda Center" back in August.
The Pelicans currently rank No. 21 in home attendance, averaging more than 16,200 fans per game, with a total capacity of 18,000. New Orleans Arena opened in 1999 and began hosting the Pelicans, formerly known as the Hornets, in 2002. Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage to the arena in 2005, forcing the franchise to temporarily play its home games in Oklahoma City for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. The arena then played host to the 2008 All-Star Game.