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

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

NFL to subsidize Saints?; More on Superdome reconstruction; Benson bashed for S.A. conditions

A post on the message boards indicates that WDSU-TV's Fletcher Mackel reported yesterday that the NFL has agreed to subsidize the Saints due to the conditions in New Orleans.

Most importantly, the subsidy would only apply if the team remains in New Orleans.

Apparently, according to other posts on the forum, Mackel also noted that inside sources indicated Benson had refused the subsidy in order to keep open his option of moving the team to San Antonio. Benson also could use such a subsidy as a bargaining chip with San Antonio in relocation discussions.

If this is correct, it is a striking blow made by NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, showing a true devotion to returning the team to its rightful home.

And a complete opposite on Tommy Boy's part.

Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune provides more specific details on the Superdome reconstruction in today's edition.

The article notes that the Dome could be open for NFL football by November 1, 2006, with new enhancements throughout the facility such as "renovated luxury suites and open-air club rooms with new furniture and flat-screen TVs; glass walls on the corners of the building; VIP entry ways to club lounges; and state-of-the-art electronics, including new scoreboards and a high-definition "halo" board like the one in New Orleans Arena."

Most improvements to the luxury suites and club rooms wouldn't be finalized until the start of the 2007 season.

The article goes on to state that the cost of the repairs and enhancements are estimated to range from $154 million to $182 million, not including possible increases due to shortages of materials and labor post-Katrina. State insurance and FEMA would cover nearly 90 percent of the costs, with the state having to pony up the remaining amount.

Among the options for the state to come up with the money is refinancing the Superdome's bond debt, which could result in $50 million.

Another notable portion of the article, reproduced below from Duncan's article, focuses on the findings of an architectural study of the Superdome:

- The Dome's structural frame was unaffected by the storm.

- The exterior aluminum skin on the sides of the building received minor aesthetic damage.

- All of the 53,000 square feet of carpet, 30 percent of the Sheetrock and 15 percent of the ceiling tiles will need to be replaced.

- Nearly all of the furnishings in the 165 luxury suites were damaged and will need to be replaced.

- Fifty percent of the food-service equipment in the concession stands were damaged.

- Thirty-five percent of the seats received water damage.

- The synthetic turf football field was ruined by contaminated water and will need to be replaced.

- Eleven of the Dome's 38 escalators and six of the 15 elevators will need some repair or replacement.

- All four corner scoreboards were damaged and will need to be replaced.

Even fantasy football writers are chiming in on the reality that is the Saints' dismal conditions in San Antonio.

Take and columnist Gregg Rosenthal, for example. In his latest piece, he offers the following commentary as the lead:
"My favorite part of Monday Night Football was the footage of a Saints walk through. The team had been kicked out of their newest practice home by the latest rodeo or NCAA fencing tournament that appears to be so popular in San Antonio. Saints owner Tom Benson spares no expense making his team as uncomfortable as possible.

"The Saints players were all wearing street clothes, some with winter coats on, one player with camouflage shorts, a backward hat, and what looked like flip-flops. A few players had their hands in there pockets, turned away from the action. They had all the energy of a bored high school basketball team forced to run a layup line."
These comments echo those of Aaron Brooks, and are part of a slowly but surely growing perspective on the team's situation.

It's becoming more and more apparent that the Saints' conditions now are not so much because of what Katrina has done, but rather are due to what Tom Benson won't do.

Benson could have his team practicing in Metairie, living in their own homes (reports indicate that only one of the Saints' players' homes was destroyed by Katrina), and preparing to play the second half of 2006 in the refurbished and upgraded Superdome with a certainty about the future.

In doing so, Tommy Boy could give New Orleans a real chance at recovery by being a leader in a time where leadership there has been in doubt. He could show some FAITH in his home town.

Or, he could have his team practice in a parking lot, dress in a high school baseball field, work out under an outdoor tent, live in apartments, and have no idea what lies ahead for them or their families. In doing so, he could completely alienate most of his players, as well as one of the most unbelievably loyal fan bases in professional sports.

I think all of us in Louisiana have seen over the years that Tommy Boy will try to get whatever HE wants, without a hint of conscience about anyone and everyone else harmed in the process.

Players, coaches, front office employees, fans, New Orleans' recovery...Apparently, nothing matters more to Tommy Boy than money from a new place where people haven't been soured on him.


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