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, December 26, 2005

Benson: 'You know how much I like San Antonio'; Saints mall kiosks?; L.A. Times supports Saints return to N.O.; S.A. task force?; More...

After the Saints' Christmas Eve loss to Detroit in San Antonio's Alamodome, Tom Benson told the San Antonio Express-News that he wants at least some of the 2006 Saints schedule to be played there.

Benson's quote: "Divide it up, you know how much I like San Antonio."

The same article notes that Benson and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue will meet later this week in San Antonio to discuss the Saints' future.

Benson also seemed to concede that the NFL will dictate where the Saints play next year. However, he also stated that he will control where the team practices.

Benson said, "The commissioner sets the schedule, all I can say is where we practice. He sets the schedule, and the league, you know, so I don't have a lot of say so in that."

Then, the article goes on to report that when asked where Benson wants the Saints to practice in 2006, he told the paper, "It all depends on where we have to play, most probably we will know more soon. (After) a couple more meetings, something will happen."

The Express-News then points out the obvious: "Benson's actions since moving to San Antonio, where he has strong business and personal ties, indicate that he wants the team to remain in San Antonio to practice and play next season."

San Antonio mayor Phil Hardburglar also was reported in the article to say, "Tom and I are going to sit down after the first of the year (to negotiate). I am very hopeful that we are going to get a majority of the games next season, but there are things happening at the NFL that are really out of our control."

Another article in the San Antonio Express-News points out yet another glaring discrepancy between game marketing by the team between there and Baton Rouge.

An interview with a Saints fan revealed that tickets were being sold, at half their face value, at a mall kiosk by Saints officials. To quote the article, the fan "bought $70 tickets for $35 at a kiosk the team had set up at North Star Mall."

No such efforts were made to set up similar facilities in Baton Rouge, and no such discounts were extended either.

The article also verifies that the $70 tickets in the lower bowl of the Alamodome were being discounted in half to individual buyers, and not to groups.

An editorial in yesterday's Los Angeles Times, entitled "Saints can be morale builder," calls for someone to help make the 2006 home opener in New Orleans happen sooner than Nov. 1, and states that "to visit New Orleans during football season is to know that the Saints mean a lot to the sports public in that hurricane-devastated town."

The editorial further notes that "Franklin D. Roosevelt, as America's 1940s president, asked big league baseball and football to continue their schedules during World War II because sports boost morale. And as the world knows, New Orleans' morale could do with a bit of boosting."

There's a lengthy piece on from the San Antonio Business Journal entitled, "City leaders have faith Saints are coming back."

The report states that San Antonio may put together a task force committee to increase the courtship of the Saints from New Orleans.

A local business executive who has had a significant role in trying to get the Saints to move to San Antonio, Jim Greenwood of Valero Energy Corp., said, "After this season, we need to move appropriately to see what our options are for next season and beyond. It has been mentioned...that we need to formalize a group to codify the commitment from the business community to bring the NFL to San Antonio permanently."

And, the article states that the HollyHills Group bought 10,000 tickets to Saturday's Saints-Lions game in San Antonio with a mindset that it would not be the last game played in the Alamodome.

More importantly, the article notes that the HollyHills Group spokesman quoted in the article, T.J. Connolly, also worked for Benson for several years after he bought the Saints in the late 1980's. (It's another tie between HollyHills and Benson. The company has expressed an interest in constructing a sports megacomplex in San Antonio with an NFL stadium for the Saints, and then made the aforementioned lump ticket purchase.)

With that, Connolly told the San Antonio Business Journal that HollyHills "didn't (purchase the tickets) under the impression that it's the last game we're going to see played in the Alamodome...HollyHills would not have invested in the Saints' last hurrah."

A scan of the most recent national news coverage of the Saints seems to indicate a turning tide against returning the team to New Orleans.

Take this piece from the Hattiesburg American by Stan Caldwell, entitled "Saints' stint in New Orleans full of lowlights."

In it, Caldwell writes, "I am convinced that the Saints will never return to New Orleans."

His reasoning is as follows:
"Four months after Katrina, most of the corporations that filled up the box suites have set up shop elsewhere, and aren't in any big hurry to come back to New Orleans.

"And the rank and file - the ones who scrape up for season tickets or just manage to come up with the wherewithal to attend one or two games a season - aren't any more eager to return than the corporations.

"It is estimated that about half of the one million people who lived in the New Orleans metropolitan area before Aug. 29 have left the city, and a lot of them aren't ever coming back."
Caldwell also voices a sort of support for Tom Benson the Business Owner, based in part on attendance numbers in Baton Rouge versus San Antonio:
"Saints' owner Tom Benson has been portrayed as an ogre for his stated desire to move the team to San Antonio, and his curmudgeonly attitude certainly hasn't won him any friends.

"But Benson is right when he argues that he's a businessman with a business to run.

"And the numbers speak for themselves.

"The Saints drew enthusiastic crowds over well over 60,000 in the three games they played at the Alamodome this season. They drew apathetic crowds in the 35,000 range in the four games they played at Baton Rouge."
Caldwell fails to point out Benson's (and his organization's) different treatment of Baton Rouge and San Antonio, with an obvious effort at making one look better than the other in terms of supporting the Saints.

For at least one person, Tommy Boy seems to have succeeded.

Then there's Ray Buck of Knight-Ridder, who wrote, "San Antonio hopes to land Saints; Strong attendance a sign city is NFL-worthy."

Buck also points out the attendance figure differences, writing that San Antonio, not Baton Rouge, is expected to play host to the Saints until the team returns to New Orleans for the latter part of the '06 campaign:
"San Antonio is expected to host the Saints home games next season until the Superdome is ready for play. And San Antonio has shown that it can be a great "second home" for an NFL franchise. The Saints played three games in the Alamodome, averaging 62,666 in paid attendance. By comparison, four home games played at LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., averaged 40,310."
Buck further reports that Benson is unlikely to garner the required three-fourths support of NFL owners to permanently relocate the Saints to San Antonio.

Then there's Forbes' Monte Burke, who identified the following on his "watch list":
"New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. Faced with a tough choice: stay in New Orleans or abandon the city and go to Los Angeles. Will pay a price with either call."
And Burke's "bold prediction" of the future?

"The New Orleans Saints will move to Los Angeles."

Tom Benson was smacked in this Austin American-Stateman "Hootie Awards" article:
"Probably not the best time to break out the 'disaster' analogy - Saints owner Tom Benson was booed and harassed by fans in Baton Rouge, La., because of the perception that Benson would use the hurricane as an excuse to move his team to a more profitable city. Angered by his treatment, Benson declared that he would not attend any more of this teams' games in Baton Rouge, describing his trip there as a 'total disaster.'"
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was drilled in the San Antonio Express-News' "Winnners and Losers of 2005":
"NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, rejecting San Antonio as a candidate to become the new home of the New Orleans Saints, said the league had no plans to move into small markets, thus angering a "small" town with big dreams."
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you blame Benson for wanting to move out of New Orleans? Without a doubt the dirtiest crime-infested city in the country once you stick you head outside of the quarter or the garden district. Now you, in typical NOLA fashion, are asking for a welfare payment from FEMA, Benson, the NFL, and anyone else who will listen to keep a luxury like the Saints in town while state subsidies and other funds plowed into the Saints organization should be used for schools, crime, and getting rid of your corrupt politicians. I don't care if the Saints end up in SA, LA, or Walla Walla but I am tired of the sob stories coming from Saints season ticket holders regarding the loss of their toy. I promise you 9 out of 10 other Americans 50 miles outside of NOLA feel the same way.

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Harahan Saint said...

At least Benson is being frank when he says he like San Antonio, until now his actions have strongly supported that fact. It is sad that the fate of our franchise is probably going to be decided in a court, but as the a-hole who posted before me points out it is going to be hard for the State to keep subsidising the Saints when there are so many other priorities that tight tax dollars need to go towards. Like it or not, San Antonio is in a wealthy proactive state, receives alot of taxable tourist dollars, and has 5 Fortune 500 corporations (and 2 more in Ausitn) which will gladly spend the cash to fill up stadiums like they did on the 24th. This kind of governmental and corporate support is going to be hard to come by in New Orleans going forward. I guess what I am trying to say is that nothing that I see on your blog these days suprises me, sorry to be such a downer, go Saints.

12:07 PM  
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