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Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Updated: February 6, 11:05 AM ET
Pelicans uniting with Smoothie King

By Darren Rovell
ESPN.com

The New Orleans Pelicans will announce on Thursday a 10-year naming rights deal that will result in their home being called the Smoothie King Center.

Financial terms of the deal with franchisor Smoothie King, which has 675 stores in the U.S., South Korea and Singapore, were not being disclosed. The company has about 75 employees working at its New Orleans headquarters.

"Our mission is to invest locally, regionally, nationally and internationally," said Tom O'Keefe, Smoothie King's president and COO. "This deal satisfies all those goals."

New Orleans Arena
The name of the arena that is home to the NBA's Pelicans has been changed from the New Orleans Arena to the Smoothie King Center.

Smoothie King will get its logo all over the arena and have two kiosks that will serve smoothies at the venue's events. O'Keefe said the areas will not only serve as a retail experience, but also hope to lure new franchisees.

The entrance will feature two 20-foot high Smoothie King cups that will be in place in time for next weekend's NBA All-Star Game. The company's logo will also be on the roof of the arena.

O'Keefe said the deal took a long time to put together because the company wanted to be seen as athlete-friendly. To pass muster, the company tested all of its ingredients to make sure it was compliant with what athletes in all leagues could ingest. O'Keefe said a few ingredients, which made up less than 1 percent of Smoothie King's $160 million in systemwide sales last year, were eliminated from the company's menu.

Although the state of Louisiana owns both this arena and the Superdome, the naming rights of which were sold to Mercedes-Benz, the marketing teams of Pelicans and Saints owner Tom Benson consummated both deals.

Pelicans president Dennis Lauscha said such a deal had been a "gigantic'' piece of owner Benson's business plan since he bought the long-struggling small-market franchise from the NBA in the spring of 2012.

"Finding a naming rights partner was key to the long-term financial viability of this franchise in this market,'' Lauscha said.

Team officials said there were "two or three'' other candidates for a naming rights deal, but that Smoothie King's interests seemed most aligned with the Benson's goals of promoting the business climate in his home state.

"There's no more perfect story to say how businesses can root themselves in New Orleans and grow,'' said Rita Benson LeBlanc, Benson's granddaughter and a part owner of the Pelicans and Saints. She added that the agreement is "a testament to how New Orleans has recovered [from Hurricane Katrina] and how Louisiana is redefining itself as an economic development engine.''

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.