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Hornets attendance slump could let them break lease, move

Dec 1, 2010, 3:53 PM EDT

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Wins or not, Chris Paul or not, getting people to come to New Orleans Hornets games has not been easy. Frankly, it wasn’t easy when the team was the Jazz and Pistol Pete putting on the show. Today little has changed.

The current downward slump in attendance will trigger a clause in the Hornets current lease agreement with the state that could allow them to move, according to the Times Picayune.

If the Hornets do not average crowds of at least 14,213 for the next 13 games at the New Orleans Arena, the franchise can opt out of its current lease agreement with the state, according to Doug Thornton, vice president of SMG, the company that manages the Arena and the Superdome.

Despite a franchise-record start, the Hornets have experienced a decline in attendance. This season, attendance has dipped to an average of 14,214 over the first eight games, which ranks 25th in the 30-team league. Last season, the Hornets averaged 15,072 for 42 home dates. The New Orleans Arena seats 17,188 for NBA games.

Of course, the potential sale of the team plays into this. Current but outgoing owner George Shinn seems the type that would seriously consider other offers. Incoming owner Gary Chouest is a gulf energy guy and a New Orleans guy who seems unlikely to move the team. But the sale has yet to go through.

The Hornets are not imminently on the move. But this is a situation worth watching.

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