Local officials come together in rapid fashion to land NBA All Star event

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Smoothie King CenterNEW ORLEANS – The regular bid process for the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation to secure a major event like NBA All-Star Weekend is a marathon.

This time around, it was a sprint at Usain Bolt-like speed.

Twenty-nine days after the NBA pulled All-Star 2017 from Charlotte, the league and local officials announced Friday that the event will come to the Crescent City Feb. 17-19.

“When the NBA officially announced it was seeking a new venue,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a news conference Friday, “our team went immediately to work, (and) we have the best team in the country.

“As soon as the difficulties began in Charlotte, our teams just naturally started thinking, ‘If there’s an opportunity out there, we want to be ready for it.’ We were fortunate enough to out-compete the other cities that were under consideration.”

Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation CEO Jay Cicero thanked many partners, from the Pelicans to government officials to the downtown hotels and SMG, for their cooperation.

“Those relationships allowed us to compress an eight-month bid process into 3-4 weeks,” Cicero said.

Knowing it would be a challenge, Cicero and Stephen Perry of the New Orleans CVB were two steps ahead of the NBA, anticipating the possible move out of Charlotte.

“If (the NBA was) going to do this,” Cicero said, “can we pull this off? It was a very difficult last 3-4 weeks.”

In addition to the tight time frame, the other hurdle city officials faced was making All-Star happen at the same time as the first weekend of Mardi Gras.

One of the key boxes that needed to be checked came from public safety leaders, who told local officials that additional officers from neighboring jurisdictions could be pulled in to help secure both All-Star and Mardi Gras.

“(Hosting major events) is something we do all the time,” Landrieu said. “I don’t want to say it’s not hard, but it’s something we’re used to. We expect it to go very, very well.”

One change from the 2014 All-Star weekend is that the large majority of events normally held at the Morial Convention Center, including the fan festival, will take place at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“This is one of the most complex deals we’ve ever put together,” said the CVB’s Perry, “and in a short period of time.

“We have an opportunity to marry the celebration of basketball with the celebration of life.”

The NBA pulled the event from North Carolina in response to the state’s controversial HB2, which bans transgender people from using bathrooms based on their gender identities.

“We are a diverse, open and inviting city. We pride ourselves on the ability to welcome everybody to the City of New Orleans,” Landrieu said.

New Orleans will host All-Star for an unprecedented third time in 10 years.

“We really have created a great relationship with (the NBA) since 2008,” Cicero said. “It’s hard not to create a bond.”

Landrieu singled out the behind-the-scenes efforts of Sam Joffray of the Sports Foundation and Ryan Berni of the mayor’s staff.

“Any time there’s a jump ball,” Landrieu said, “we’re pretty confident we’re at least going to get a shot at it.

“It’s our job to put our best foot forward. We’re always ready and we always think we’re the best.”

Friday’s announcement, coincidentally, comes exactly six months to the day before the All-Star Game, which will round out the weekend of festivities.

Let the countdown begin.


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Lenny Vangilder

Lenny Vangilder


Lenny has been involved in college athletics since the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane; since then, he has remained involved in college sports. He works in television production of many college sporting events and served briefly as managing editor of New Orleans Metro Sports Magazine. Lenny also served for 11 years on the management…

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