Saints' L.A. fate sealed with (or without?) Superdome news
If this is true, it means two things.
First, it's a very sad day for New Orleans as well as the world of sports. The Superdome has been a defining mark on the city skyline for years. It also has been the home for so many legendary sports memories, and its legacy will long outlast its physical structure.
Second, it all but ensures that the Saints will not be returning to New Orleans. Ever.
(That probably is true even if the Superdome stays intact. See below.)
Rumors are swirling that Tom Benson wants to permanently move the Saints to San Antonio. Benson, again mangling yet another p.r. issue, has not come out to quell any such talk.
It doesn't really matter. A permanent move to San Antonio won't happen. Given the backdrop of the NFL's clearly stated intentions of getting a team to Los Angeles, it's almost certain that the Saints soon will belong to the City of Angels.
Here's why. The city of San Antonio is not in any position to house an NFL franchise for the short-term future. The Alamodome is not an NFL-caliber facility. It has too few seats (app. 60,000), too few suites, and too small of a television market in relation to L.A., the nation's second-largest media market. It also has less potential corporate sponsors than Los Angeles.
In other words, it all comes down to money. And the required 24 of 32 NFL owners won't vote to move the Saints to San Antonio over Los Angeles, no matter how badly Benson wants them to.
Which means that Benson will probably be "strongly encouraged" by his NFL owner counterparts to sell the team to the group of L.A. investors for the aforementioned offer price of $1 billion, instead of trying to move it elsewhere. The NFL wants whatever team moves to Los Angeles to have local ownership, and Benson doesn't want to move the team to L.A.
As for New Orleans, we all know in our hearts that the city will not be the same for a long time. It will not have enough of a population, either in terms of corporations or people, to sustain a viable fan base. Now it appears it will not have a facility to play host to the Saints either. And, now more than ever, the state cannot afford to siphon off millions from its budget that otherwise must be used to shore up its reconstruction funds.
Besides, it seemed apparent to this writer from a wide variety of sources that Benson was posturing himself to sell the Saints to the L.A. investors after the 2005 season anyway, while trying to not look like the bad guy for doing so:
- Earlier this year he completely cut off negotiations with the state so he still could receive $15 million from Louisiana through their existing agreement. At the time he said he wouldn't talk until after the 2005 season - when the option presented itself to opt out of the present agreement with the state.
- He then vastly criticized local fan support after season ticket sales had dipped into the 30,000 range. This came after years of sellouts for subpar teams.
- Then, out of nowhere, he suddenly attempted to re-start negotiations with the state, slated to take place in August and September.
- After promising coach Jim Haslett a contract extension, Benson inexplicably to this day has not followed through.
- At the same time Benson tried to re-start negotiations, it was revealed that the NFL scheduled owner meetings in October to verify a stadium site for a future NFL team in L.A. This coincided with a season kickoff concert from Los Angeles.
- Therefore, if the new negotiations between Benson and the state weren't fruitful from Benson's perspective by the end of September, he would have had the ability to point fingers at Louisiana for not wanting him or his team to stay in New Orleans. He then could have attended the October NFL owners meeting and verified that the Saints will become the team to move to L.A.
- The Saints then could have been lame ducks for the rest of 2005, and with lagging season ticket sales, it would have been similar to the final Houston Oilers season.
- Benson then would have opted out of the current agreement through an $81 million payment to the state within 30 days of the end of the present season.
- Then, he could have sold the team to Los Angeles investors for the already-verified offer amount of $1 billion. The L.A. Coliseum has claimed it could host an NFL team starting in 2006, and the deal between the Coliseum and NFL was stated in August to be 95 percent complete. Plus, L.A.'s mayor has applied pressure on the NFL to get the deal done immediately.
Therefore, all the aforementioned steps (some largely unreported outside of this site) have been taken for the L.A. Coliseum to host the Saints in 2006. Where uncertainty existed before concerning such a move, Katrina seems to have guaranteed it.
Again, in a few years, perhaps a new state-of-the-art stadium will be constructed in New Orleans where the Superdome presently stands. Perhaps the NFL will provide an expansion team to the city that has hosted so many of its Super Bowls.
For New Orleans, that option is the one to have more faith in than the alternative. For now, the homeless and domeless Saints only fit within the NFL's L.A. plan.