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TallySaint 10-26-2005 07:01 AM

Shinn: We'll be Proactive for New Orleans
Shinn: We'll be proactive for New Orleans

Wednesday, October 26, 2005
By Jimmy Smith, Times-Picayune

BATON ROUGE -- Hornets owner George Shinn said Tuesday night it will take more than lip service from New Orleans' business and sports community to rebuild the hurricane-ravaged city, and he's ready to roll up his sleeves and dirty his hands.

"I just can't sit back and say, 'I'll come back when New Orelans comes back,' " Shinn said before the Hornets' preseason game against the Miami Heat at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

"I can say that, but what I've got to do is help them. I've got to do my damn part. I think everybody else, every other businessman, has to do the same thing. Don't just sit on the sidelines. We're stepping up."

The proceeds from the game against the Heat, featuring former LSU center Shaquille O'Neal, went to hurricane relief, and throughout the commercial-free telecast of the game on the Hornets' television network, viewers were asked to make donations to the relief effort.

"And it wasn't just in this market. It's going to Oklahoma City, too," Shinn said. "Hopefully, we can raise some more money to do more things. And we're going to continue."

The team announced Tuesday it's partnering with Habitat for Humanity in a program called "Hoops for Homes" in which 20 new homes will be built in New Orleans during the course of the 2005-06 season.

"I plan to be there when they break ground for that first one," Shinn said, "and I'll be back at Christmas to do the things we've done there the last few years."

Shinn was also emphatic in his desire to play three regular-season games in March, scheduled for the PMAC, in New Orleans Arena, which is expected to be ready for occupancy by February.

Flood and structural damage in the Arena from Hurricane Katrina forced the Hornets to relocate 35 of 41 regular-season games to Oklahoma City this season, with six more being played at the PMAC.

Before the games can be moved to the Arena, it must be inspected and improved by the NBA, as well as SMG, the management firm that operates the building.

"You've got to have a plan and a goal," Shinn said. "Our goal is to play those games in New Orleans. It's going to take a lot to get me not to do that.

"If the NBA comes in and says the Arena's not ready, I'm going to go straight to David (Stern, NBA commissioner) and say 'I went through it; I approved it, by God. We're going to play there.' "

Shinn's one concern, he said, is that there might not be enough fan base back in the city by March to fill the building, making it aesthetically displeasing.

"What happens if we play those game and nobody comes?" Shinn said. "The first one played will probably be on national television. Everybody will be watching. If nobody shows up, they'll say, 'That place will never come back.'

"What we've got to do is get some local people to help us and make sure we can get it as full as we can. And that will send a message to everybody . . . . to the NBA, to me, to everybody. We've got to make sure it will work. If it's not going to work, I'd rather it not work here than not work there. We've just got to take it one day at a time."

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