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, July 28, 2006

Eat your heart out, San Antonio: Saints officials expect season ticket sellout

Well well well...just a few months after folks in San Antonio were harping about how New Orleans hasn't and wouldn't support the Saints like they could, team officials are expected to announce within days that they are expecting a full season ticket sellout.

According to this article on the WWL 870AM radio site, Saints VP Mike Stanfield has said that the team is expecting to run out of available seats soon.

That would mean nearly 65,000 season tickets sold, easily eclipsing the previous franchise record by over 10,000.

It also would mean that there would be zero tickets available for individual games.


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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Tags dodges question on Saints' long-term future in N.O.

With all the good news coming out of the Paul Tagliabue Superdome visit yesterday, one bit of somewhat troubling information came from a WWL-TV story on the event.

A reporter from WWL-TV directly asked Tagliabue point-blank about the Saints' long-term future in New Orleans.

And, like Reggie Bush dodging an oncoming tackler, Tagliabue completely evaded the question.

Here's the text of the question and answer:
Q: "What’s your confidence level that the Saints will stay here long term?"
A: "I told Mr. Benson this morning that I’m here because it’s two months to kickoff and six months to the NFC title game in the Superdome."
Well...what about after that? What happens in seven months?

Also, I find it interesting to note that Tagliabue is utilizing language similar to that used by Tom Benson last summer, pre-Katrina, in an effort to garner additional support before what many were calling a lame-duck season in New Orleans - without offering any suggestion of a future beyond 2005.

Not much difference here. The Saints could leave New Orleans after the upcoming season if it pays Louisiana $61 million as an exit penalty.

At some point, it would be very comforting to get either Tagliabue, Benson, or the likely NFL commissioner-to-be, Roger Goodell, to make a firm commitment to the future of New Orleans that extends beyond Tagliabue's "six months."

(And, as a final note, I'm in no way meaning to criticize the man most responsible for keeping the Saints' future in New Orleans alive. Tagliabue has done a lot of good. I just wish we could get a stronger commitment.)


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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tags tours Dome, waxes positive; Photos from walkthrough; Dome could have name sponsor soon; Columnist expresses support for keeping Saints in N.O.

NFL commissioner (and Saints fans' biggest ally) Paul Tagliabue made his seventh trip to the Gulf Coast - and fifth visit to New Orleans - today when he accompanied Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and Saints owner Tom Benson in a one-hour Superdome walkthrough.

Afterward, Tags, making his first visit to the city since early April, had a lot of positive comments on what he saw.

According to this article by Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune, Tagliabue said, "When I was last here (in December) there were concerns about the availability of materials, the availability of a skilled labor force and disputes on FEMA funding. It seems like all those things have worked out...There are some really tremendous new features in the renovation from the standpoint of the fans. It's going to be a much better fan experience."

And, according to this piece by Stacey Plaisance of the Clarion Ledger, Tagliabue also added these comments: "We're working hard with the business community. It's a great opportunity for large businesses...I think there are some terrific features in the renovation. There's a feeling of openness, freshness."

Tags further spoke about the franchise record-high season ticket sales, in the near-60,000 range, saying, "Fan support is reflected in the season ticket sales."

According to the Times-Picayune story, Tagliabue also asked a worker for his yellow hard hat, which had a Saints and Packers logo, so that he could include it in an exhibit commemorating the restoration of the Superdome in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It's all positive developments for keeping the Saints in New Orleans. A Canton exhibit recognizing the post-Katrina renovations of the Superdome probably wouldn't be put together if the team was ready to cut and run in January. Plus, the stadium could end up meeting Benson's previous expectations of renovations. And, it's obvious that the huge season ticket sales have made an impression.

Here are some photos from today's Superdome walkthrough:
(Looks like Tommy Boy is studying the Tagliabue official
keep-the-Saints-in-New-Orleans-or-else script ;o)...)

(Looks like Tommy Boy is now on script - which is in his grasp under his left arm...)

According to the above-quoted article in the Clarion-Ledger, the Superdome could have a named business sponsor by the Monday Night Football home opener against Atlanta on Sept. 25.

The story states that a large corporation could buy the Dome's naming rights soon, and stadium officials are actively working with a team of sports marketing consultants to strike a deal before then.

Such a deal would be a tremendous boost to the long-term prospects of keeping the Saints in New Orleans. If the Dome has a corporate naming sponsorship, that deal would likely be in place only if the Saints were staying put. Plus, these deals typically are for long terms, not just on a year-to-year basis.

Also, the value of the sponsorship would be vastly less, and could even be a poor move from a public relations standpoint, if the Saints left town and the company was somehow tied to them.

COLUMNIST EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR KEEPING SAINTS IN N.O. NFL columnist John Czarnecki writes the following in his latest work, "If I was NFL commissioner...":
"Tagliabue definitely has the right idea about New Orleans. Those devastated people need to keep their team. It has cost the NFL $30 million thus far, but it's a gesture worth continuing because the league can afford it. Now, Saints owner Tom Benson is a different cat. He made his fortune as a car salesman, and those guys tend to be sneaky and slick; but allowing him to move to San Antonio makes no sense. We'll fight that move because San Antonio still is Cowboys' country, and we can build so much good will by remaining in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. If Benson won't listen, we should take the franchise away from him. We all know that the NFL really understands good public relations. The league's second-best commissioner, Pete Rozelle, started in PR."
Well said.


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Friday, July 14, 2006

Saints exit clause payment reduced by $20M; Was Bush-to-NO an NFL conspiracy?

One of the most interesting developments in months on the Saints relocation front is news that the NFL's $15 million grant to help repair the Superdome was approved by the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED). There's an additional $5 million that also could be gained from the NFL grant, if the state ponies up $5 million of its own dough.

However, the most important news by far in this (buried in the sixth paragraph of this story in today's Times-Picayune) is that the team's exit penalty clause in the Saints-Louisiana agreement is amended, favorably to Tom Benson:

If the Saints decide to leave New Orleans before 2010, the team must pay the state $61 million instead of the previously-installed $81 million.

The next opportunity for the team to exercise that clause comes after the upcoming season.

Which means, in spite of everything Saints fans might do to shower the team with support (including buying season tickets in droves), Tommy Boy still might cut and run - at a cheaper price than before.

Stay tuned...

There has been a lot said since the April NFL draft about how in the world Reggie Bush fell into the Saints' laps. One line of thinking argues that the Texans simply liked Mario Williams better, and that with Gary Kubiak at the helm, they don't need a star RB to succeed on offense. The other side contends that the NFL had its hands in the Texans' top pick, so that Bush would be taken by New Orleans.

It's an interesting conspiracy theory. The potential for NFL involvement is two-fold. There are two situations that emerge if Bush goes to the Saints as opposed to the Texans:

(1) Bush brings massive fan and business support to New Orleans, thus ensuring that the team remains there. Bush further helps lead the team to victories, ensuring same.
(2) Bush comes to a team that still doesn't get sufficient fan and business support by Benson's standards. The NFL wants a team in LA, and Bush is already a star in LA, making the Saints an easy candidate for relocation (and an instant hot ticket in LA when they get there). Plus, the price tag for a prospective buyer goes up with Bush included in the package.

Couple that with the reduction in exit penalty charges ($81M to $61M), and the league sure seems to be hedging its bets.

None of this would have been possible if the Texans had taken Bush. The Saints would have selected AJ Hawk instead, and it would have killed both (1) the potential increase in fan support to keep the team in NO, and (2) the potential relocation value to LA.

So was there a conspiracy? I don't know...but it sure is funny how clean all this fits together - especially considering Domanick Davis is still nursing a bad knee that hasn't healed right after surgery. He didn't participate in minicamps and is a questionmark for training camp, leaving the Texans thin at RB. Their other options are Antowain Smith (age), Vernand Morency (coach's doghouse plus injury) and Wali Lundy (rookie).

But the Texans were already well-stocked on the defensive line, and had just signed FA Anthony Weaver (Baltimore) to play DE. Plus, their first round pick in '05 was a DE (Travis Johnson). Now, with Mario Williams also in the mix, the team is overstocked on the defensive line...and understocked at RB.

Plus, if Casserly really wanted to get into the NFL front office, is it conceivable that he encouraged the Texans to take Mario over Reggie for NFL purposes?

There's a lot of smoke...


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