Dennis Lauscha on The Pelicans Podcast
March 30, 2020
On the health of his family and staff and how everyone is dealing with the virus:
Dennis Lauscha: My family and I are doing very well. We've been quarantined like everyone else. Both of my children are doing their school work at home and it has gone very, very well. I'm really excited to say that social distancing and allowing people to work remotely, I think, has been very good for us. The health of our staff is excellent to be perfectly honest with you. We still have obviously a long way to go and we have to continually be careful. But as we've been saying since the very beginning, our number one priority is being safe and making sure that we're doing everything we can for our employees and their families, and really for our fans and our entire community to take the necessary steps to be safe. Also, lead here in a way where we can show everyone – particularly New Orleans – that we can still lead, we can still do our job, but we can do it safely.
On the keys to managing two different franchises in two different leagues during these times:
Dennis Lauscha: Well, that's a great question. We have outstanding people that work here. We have outstanding employees. I would never say it's been easy. There's been some challenges. But, they certainly do make it easy. We're pretty much operating as though, where everyone was in the building, and we're full go. Obviously, some new challenges…challenges with Mickey (Loomis) and what he's doing in preparation in the draft. As you said, from a basketball standpoint, really doing everything that you can to be prepared so that when it is time to resume the season, not only can we do it, but we can be extraordinarily successful in doing it. That, of course, has been the focus. But, the other part of the focus is preparing for next year. This is oftentimes for both franchises, the busiest time of the year: the off-seasons. This is when you're prepping for the new year. This is when you're renewing tickets. This is when you're pulling together what the fan experience is going to look like for the next year. All those things are going down the same path, a similar path (with) this crisis management that we're dealing with. So, sure it can be somewhat stressful. It's challenging, but again we have really good people. Really, it's nothing compared to the people who are on the front lines right now who are caring for our sick. I'm amazed at the job that they do. Again, for as hard as it is, for the stuff that we are trying to accomplish, it pales in comparison to what those folks are doing and the sacrifices that their making. Our thoughts, prayers, and hats go off to them because they truly are special.
On how having to close both practice facilities has impacted the ability of the teams to conduct business:
Dennis Lauscha: Well, it's interesting because what we talk a lot about here within the organization is doing everything that we can to the best of our ability, always being prepared. As I said earlier, with the group of folks we have working here and with that goal in mind, it has certainly been challenging but it certainly has not been impossible. One of the things that I say, I know others in this organization say, is that we think we are very well equipped. Unfortunately, we've had to deal with some struggles in the past. But, we think it has prepared us for now and hopefully, it's given us an advantage in the way that we operate. I would tell you that as in any organization, the most important thing right now is probably communication. We certainly are communicating. We meet (as a) staff…the Senior Vice Presidents and I, along with Mrs. Benson, meet regularly every morning on a call to start our day. We also have Vice Presidents meetings twice a week. We have town hall meetings with all of our employees at least once a week. I'm constantly in contact with Mickey and in connection with David (Griffin). I was looking at some of our IT numbers just now. We've had over a thousand virtual meetings here in the last week, week and a half which is pretty amazing. If you look at some of our connectivity numbers and look at some of the traffic that you see – just what's happening in the background – you see an organization that is extraordinarily connected, extraordinarily dialed in and, again, hopefully in a position to take advantage of the position that we find ourselves in. What I mean by that is just being a really good organization. So, that's where we are. That's what we are continuing to focus on and so far it's been good."
On what's the best way for fans and season ticket holders to get in contact with either organization:
Dennis Lauscha: Well, really nothing has changed. All 50 of our sales employees in our ticket office are working. They are in daily contact with all of our season ticket holders on both sides. We have a full sponsorship department and its entire team is in connection with our sponsors. But to answer your question, the main lines. We have them staffed and folks are answering them at 731-1700 or 733-0255, for the Saints and 525-HOOP (4667), for the Pelicans. One of the good things that I think we've been able to do over the last few years is really get a personal connection between a season ticket holder and one of our employees or one of the folks that work in our ticket office. Hopefully, the best thing they can do is just reach out to them. I know we're reaching out to everyone, particularly people we haven't heard from. Really, the focus there is just compassion and understanding, and what's going on. Can we help? We've been involved in a number of assistance funds around the city. If there's anything we can do to help anyone, we want to do that as well. So, the connections, there all up and running…525-HOOP and 731-1700. 504 via the area code."
On what feedback has season ticket holders given both organizations in the past couple of weeks:
Dennis Lauscha: I will tell you. The conversations are the conversations that you would expect. Pretty much anywhere in the city or state or country. There's a lot of uncertainty right now. There's a lot of concern, apprehension for the folks in our community. But having said that, I think there's is a real, real strong desire for everyone to be back to normal. The reality of what we do in both of these organizations, and one of the things that we talk a lot about is bring people together and unity. Bringing people together both physically, bring people together from a community standpoint. And, we can't bring people together physically right now. However, we can do it in other ways. That's what we're striving to do. But look, by in large our fans are extraordinarily supportive of what we are doing in the community, extraordinarily supportive of what our players are doing in the community. We'll continue to do our best to try to lead during this time.
On how the donations from Mrs. Benson and players on both teams speak about the organizations:
Dennis Lauscha: Really, you can answer that question so many ways. But, if you really kind of boil it down, I think what's so true here in this situation is that everybody in the organization really has a love for this city and really has a – feels a commitment to our fans, feels a commitment to our colleagues, feels a commitment to the organization itself. When you come to play for the Pelicans or come play for the Saints, I think you very quickly realize that this is so much bigger than just playing basketball or playing football. You truly are representing a community that truly has a desire for their success more than other places. I will tell you that I think our fans – and certainly I know our employees feel it – we really, really want to make this city happy. We really, really want to make this city prosper. We really, really want to see success in this state, this region, this city. It doesn't surprise me at all that our employees or that our players would step up and try to act in a leadership role right now. Certainly as you said, Mrs. Benson…that was one of the first things that she did, was say 'Alright, how can we help the community here?' I'm very proud to say that as an organization, we were one of the first ones to step up, and that's because it was our time to do it. We had the resources to do it, so we stepped up and we will continue to step up and take the lead. But that really is where we see our organization, is in that leadership position.
On how this pandemic is affecting the renovations to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome:
Dennis Lauscha: Well as we sit here today, there has been really no alteration. It's full-speed ahead. I know ASM and the state are working hard to continue on the construction of the Superdome. I know we've been fully engaged. We have a handful of consultants that we use. I know the same is true with the state and LCED (Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District). I can tell you it's moving forward. Now, of course things can change, but as we sit here now we are fully moving forward and we totally expect to be ready to go, assuming this season begins when it should start. We'll be prepared. Now does that mean that we're not doing things in preparation of opening the Dome in a post-Covid19 world? Sure we are. There's been a handful of – we've been in constant connection and constant contact with both leagues, league management, leadership from other teams in both leagues. We've been in discussion with governmental and business officials here in town. We don't know what the future is going to look like, but it sure could be somewhat different than what we see today. Particularly on the NBA side, the league has started a small committee to start analyzing what that may be. We serve on that committee and we have a role on that committee, and a big group in our organization are really focused on when we come out of this, how will that game day experience – how would it be perhaps a little different? We're trying to stay in front of that, whether that's perhaps we change the way we consume our concessions. There might be some change in the way of tickets – maybe we go to a ticketless environment. There's a handful of other things as well. We're focused on that, and we're working on that now, and we'll be prepared for it.
On how often he is in contact with the NBA on planning ahead for when the restrictions are lifted and what else the NBA is excited to do moving forward:
Dennis Lauscha: I'm in constant contact with both leagues as I said, and leadership from other teams. We're exploring a lot of different options. Again, the best thing that we can do right now is be prepared and try to be prepared for anything that comes our way. That's easier said than done, but there's a lot of folks that are working on it and I'm proud to say that our organizations are very involved and on the cutting edge of that preparation. How that may look or what that may look like, all I can say is that we'll do our best to lead by example.
On what he is looking forward to most when things get back to normal:
Dennis Lauscha: I said this on our town hall meeting the other day: I really do miss everyone being in the office. I miss the camaraderie. I miss just being around folks walking around the office, seeing people engaged, and the short conversations. Although we're very connected as I said earlier, I still miss that. So many people who are in the position I'm in, the folks who are in leadership positions in this organization…the thing that we feel best about is when we see our fans in the stadium having a good time. When we're scoring and high-fiving and hugging and yelling and participating in our team winning…that engagement…you really have no idea how that makes us feel. That's really the joy we get from our games…the joy we get from our jobs. I can't wait for that. I know it's coming and we have to be patient. As I said to our employees, number one: be safe, number two: do your job, number three: be leaders. I know we're going to come out of this strong and hopefully better than we are, and that's important that we do that as an organization.