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

Friday, December 02, 2005

Saints ticket policies exposed; Empty stadium expected for Sunday's game; Saints evicted from Alamodome for NCAA volleyball

Today's New Orleans Times-Picayune has picked up a story that has been simmering for weeks within the Saints fan base in Louisiana - a disparity of promotion and general regard for ticket sales in Baton Rouge and San Antonio.

In "Saints ticket policies under fire," Jeff Duncan presents some interesting evidence supporting the fans' concerns.

Among the points made by Duncan is the ticket discount outlined on this site, where some $70 lower-level tickets for the Saints game in the Alamodome on Christmas Eve against the Detroit Lions have been cut in half, to $35.

Many have been able to take advantage of this discount by purchasing single tickets, in spite of team officials claiming this was against team policy.

One Saints fan who is originally from New Orleans even asked a San Antonio ticket salesperson if there was a minimum amount to purchase to receive the ticket discount for the Lions game, and was told, "We just need to sell this game out."

How convenient for San Antonio.

In contrast, there are some discount seats available in Tiger Stadium for Saints game in Baton Rouge, but a minimum of 20 tickets must be purchased to receive the price cut. No such possibility has existed to receive single seat discounts to a game in Baton Rouge.

Duncan further noted that after he questioned team officials, he obtained an interoffice memorandum that effectively ended the single seat discount for the Lions game in the Alamodome on Christmas Eve.

Rita Benson LeBlanc, who evoked memories of Baghdad Bob, was quoted as saying:
"We are clearly not being more lenient toward San Antonio over Baton Rouge. Our goal is to sell as many tickets as possible for all of our remaining games...To say that we are not giving due attention toward all of our games and especially to the ones in Baton Rouge is grossly inaccurate."
Grossly inaccurate?

I suppose that's why there's been a distinct lack of marketing for this Sunday's Saints game in Baton Rouge, contributing to an expected attendance in the 30,000 range. One Tampa report says that the Buccaneers shouldn't even bother using crowd noise simulators for the game.

And, one might wonder whether ticket holders in San Antonio have been forced to wait in will-call lines outside the Alamodome while over half the Saints game inside was played.

(Answer: they haven't. But they have in Baton Rouge.)

Also, notably, in the flyer posted on this site, no information regarding group discounts is included. In fact, there is an empty blank for the number of tickets, and no requirement of twenty or more is present.

So much for "clearly not being more lenient toward San Antonio over Baton Rouge."

Another excuse from another Saints ticket agent in San Antonio was that seats in Baton Rouge are priced lower than in San Antonio, and that the team has always had difficulty selling out games around Christmas.

Duncan effectively knocked that statement, noting that Tiger Stadium is a much larger stadium with mostly bench seats, whereas the Alamodome is a smaller, indoor, climate-controlled facility with chairback seating. And others have indicated to me that previous Saints games in New Orleans around Christmas were not discounted in this fashion.

Other points made by Duncan include a different setup for contact information on the Saints web site for Baton Rouge and San Antonio, with the latter's contact information at the top of the page and the former at the bottom. Duncan also notes that the local Baton Rouge ticket office for the Saints isn't even noted on the team's site.

Among Louisiana Saints fan comments in Duncan's article (which are indicative of the prevailing sentiment in Louisiana):
"It's not what they're doing in San Antonio but what they're not doing in Baton Rouge. A clear pattern has been established."

"There is definitely something going on. It looks like he (Benson) is trying to do as many things as possible to alienate the fan base so he can move the team to San Antonio."

"It looks like Mr Benson is doing this so he can keep the numbers down (in Baton Rouge) and then he can go to the NFL and say, 'See, they can't support this team.'"
Come on - Tommy Boy wouldn't do a thing like that, would he?

Of course, Benson is playing host to NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue this Sunday. (Yes, Tommy Boy is actually returning to Baton Rouge. Hold off on the ticker tape parades.) Tagliabue will be visiting to check on the viability of the Saints fan base in Louisiana before making a visit to New Orleans on Monday to assess the progress of recovery being made there.

Tagliabue has alluded in the past to attendance being a factor in the NFL's support for keeping the team in New Orleans.

Benson, of course, has been vehemently opposed to a return to the Crescent City.

Which is why he has no incentive to promote ticket sales in Baton Rouge, and why it would be better for him to be able to point the finger at his own fan base for its lack of support if they don't show up Sunday.

All the years that the fans have exhibited an overwhelming love and gratitude unbefitting of a storied loser don't matter.

What Tommy Boy does want is to move his team to San Antonio. Which is why he has added incentive to put more butts in the seats in the Alamodome, and point out to Tags that, hey, these people want the team there more.

It's a game of dirty manipulation. For an owner who can't seem to put a team on the field that can win, Benson seems to be emerging as the victor on this front.

Pretty much everyone in Louisiana knows it, too. It's the one game Benson's been consistently winning for several years now.

In San Antonio, the Saints are being forced to pack up and get out of the Alamodome to make room for the upcoming NCAA volleyball championships.

The article notes that the Saints have frequently practiced at a local high school football field, that they'll be using a baseball field training room next week, and that they've used a trash can for an ice tub.

All while there's a perfectly fine training facility sitting unused in Metairie.


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