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Hornets reach attendance benchmark, they are staying put. For now.

Jan 24, 2011, 2:39 PM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Hornets Getty Images

There has been a real push since the NBA took control of the New Orleans Hornets to boost attendance — the reason being to reach a benchmark, otherwise a new owner of the team (once they find one) could easily move the team out of New Orleans (well, still would have had to pay $10 million but that is nothing when you pay hundreds of millions for a franchise).

The Hornets hit that benchmark, according to the Times-Picayune. Gov. Bobby Jindal will be at the game tonight to make the announcement. That means we will likely see the Hornets in New Orleans until 2014 when this lease is up. That’s step one in keeping the team put.

But there remains one little issue to keeping the Hornets in the Big Easy — finding an owner. Okay, that’s not such a little issue.

But other than local attorney Morris Bart and a few others willing to buy a minority stake, no one else from the metro area has publicly expressed a desire to purchase a controlling interest in the Hornets.

“I think the league has to be convinced there is a local buyer out there,’’ said Bill Sutton, a former consultant for the NBA who is the associate director and a professor at the University of Central Florida’s DeVos Sports Business Management program. “You have to attract an owner that can make a go of it financially.’’

That’s what it ultimately will come down to if the Hornets are to stay near the good gumbo — an owner who wants to keep them there and not move them to Kansas City or wherever. Unless the NBA’s hand-picked guy Jac Sperling can find someone, attendance benchmarks and building up a season ticket base and all the rest of it will be moot.

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