saints (n.) - NFL franchise presently based in New Orleans; boondoggle (n.) - an unnecessary or wasteful project or activity; saintsdoggle (n.) - the Saints' potential relocation situation in New Orleans, and the resulting boondoggle by Louisiana to keep the team from leaving

Monday, June 06, 2005

Saints possible 'temporary tenants' in L.A. Coliseum starting in 2006

NFL owners should decide on a future stadium site for a Los Angeles franchise by this fall, according to a recent Washington Post article.

This coincides with today's Orange County Register story, "Saints, Chargers still best bets to relocate," which reports that of the likely remaining available stadiums (possibly just the Coliseum after today), "temporary tenant" status would be granted in the event a team needed to move to L.A. before the NFL's target timeline of 2008 or 2009.

Like, say, in 2006.

To quote the O.C. Register:
"If the Saints were to relocate to Los Angeles, their arrival date of 2006 would be 2-3 years earlier than the NFL's current projection. Under that scenario, the league could consider a temporary stadium arrangement until the new L.A. stadium is completed. Presumably, the Saints would play in the Coliseum or Rose Bowl - whichever loses in the stadium derby. Anaheim is the third site competing for the stadium project.

"The general managers of the Coliseum and Rose Bowl said they would be open to having an NFL team as a temporary tenant, as unsatisfying a consolation prize as that would be.

"Coliseum GM Pat Lynch said the potential revenue would be akin to 'having 10 major concerts per year.' Rose Bowl GM Darryl Dunn said: 'We're always looking for opportunities to generate revenue and looking for big events. But obviously, our focus remains on our long-term situation.'"
Perhaps Lynch is the perfect source here, given that the Coliseum could very well be the only stadium available to fill such a request.

Today's Los Angeles Times reports that Pasadena's city council is set to vote today on whether the city will renovate its landmark Rose Bowl into an NFL stadium. The Pasadena mayor is among those vehemently opposed to the measure, as are local neighborhood activists. The odds on whether the measure will pass are about 50-50. (UPDATE - Pasadena has passed on the NFL, voting down the measure. That leaves the Coliseum as the only stadium available to possibly take the Saints in 2006.)

If Pasadena bows out today, the only other site remaining that could house an NFL franchise in the immediate future is the Coliseum. The NFL's other consideration for a stadium in L.A. is a new construction in Anaheim. The other potential location, Carson City, removed itself from contention recently.

So what does this all mean for the Saints? Clearing up the L.A. stadium situation definitely opens a necessary door for the team to relocate to Los Angeles after next season.

As for obtaining the requisite 24 of 32 NFL owner votes to get the Saints to L.A., Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen was quoted in the above-cited Washington Post article as follows:
"L.A. is a huge market. We've had success there before. I think we have to be in Los Angeles...[But] first of all, I want to see a stadium. Once you see a stadium, then you can start worrying about whether it's an expansion team or a relocated team [that will play in Los Angeles]...I'm not a strong proponent of expanding the National Football League. But I'm not going to worry about that until I see a stadium. We've been trying to do that as long as I can remember."
Obviously, clearing the stadium hurdle is crucial to getting league approval.

If you're wondering, here's what Benson (again, from the Washington Post) had to say about the matter:
"I think it's moving forward pretty good. If we can keep doing what we're doing, the interest in L.A. is great. With that in mind, something will get done. It can be any of the...sites they mentioned. We're trying to determine how to work a club into L.A."

The Post also notes regarding the Saints' situation, "things could get ugly, as the Saints prepare for what could be a lame-duck season in New Orleans with only about 25,000 season tickets sold." (This marks the first actual acknowledgement to my knowledge that 2005 could be a lame duck season in New Orleans.)

Benson is quoted on this topic in the O.C. Register as saying, "That part of the country is having problems. It's very difficult. But it's been difficult for the 20 years I've owned the club, and we've managed it."

(I guess that fan support for 20 years is not enough to qualify a city as "NFL-caliber," eh, Tom?)

Bottom line: For Benson to stay in "good faith" in his contract with Louisiana, and keep his upcoming $81 million lease buyout option available, he must continue to toe the line and try to sell tickets (hence, his talking up the Saints as Super Bowl contenders). Then, he can become an instant billionaire off an initial $70 million purchase, simply by selling the Saints after 2005. Solidifying the L.A. stadium situation makes the odds of Benson selling the team all the stronger.


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