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, January 17, 2007

NY Times: Saints in trouble in New Orleans; Team official indicates need for new stadium; State to again offer inducements; San Antonio still at it

Amidst the most glorious season in franchise history, today's New York Times has run a story that should have Saints fans worried more than the Bears defense or snow at Soldier Field.

This, according to the article entitled "The Football is Fine, but but the Saints' Finances Aren't So Bright" by Richard Sandomir, which is the first in a long while to focus on the business woes of the team.

The story could be the first strike in leveraging negotiations between Saints owner Tom Benson and likely lame-duck governor Kathleen Blanco.

Saints vice president for marketing Ben Hales is quoted in the piece as saying, “We’re nowhere where we need to be, given the state of the community. The problems we had before Katrina have been exacerbated.”

The article continues, focusing on problems such as the decline in population, the decrease in television market size (from 43rd to 54th), the escalation in crime, and the slow reconstruction.

Sports marketing experts are quoted throughout the piece, including the oft-quoted Marc Ganis, who indicates that the team would need higher annual financial inducements than they currently receive. (The team is scheduled to be paid around $20 million this summer by the state.)

Forbes editor Michael Ozanian states in the article, “I think if they get to the Super Bowl, you’ll see a lot of talk of rebirth, but the numbers just aren’t there, in terms of people living there and in terms of the business there. It’s a real problem for the N.F.L.”

Which is why new NFL commissioner Robert Goodell did not make any sort of long-term commitment after making a quick visit to the Superdome on Saturday afternoon.

The author also writes that the Benson family (owner Tom and owner-in-waiting Rita Benson LeBlanc) "would ever earn enough in New Orleans to satisfy the Benson family, which could earn much more by playing in a larger, more stable and wealthier market." The Saints are estimated to be worth $738 million by Forbes Magazine, which is good enough for 27th of the 32 NFL franchises.

Not good news for Saints fans.

The team, which can opt out of its current lease after the present season by paying the state $61 million, likely won't do so after honoring the fans of the team with a banner in the Superdome commemorating their sellout of the entire 2006 home schedule.

Instead the Benson's will either come to the table seeking an extension of the current lease (which expires in 2010) and a new stadium (yes, you read that right), or will be prepared to exit or sell the team after the 2010 season.

Saints' chief financial officer Dennis Lauscha indicated that the Saints need a new facility to play in. Check out this quote: "“We’re financially viable. We have two big problems, a facility problem and a market problem. If you fix both, you’ll have strong viability.”

So much for the Superdome's renovations being sufficient.

Granted, the state will be planning to continue inducements to the team, according to these quotes in the story by Larry Roedel, counsel for LSED, the Louisiana Sports and Exposition District that oversees the Superdome: “We hope to sit down with the team and discuss an extension beyond 2010, and that would include inducement payments. I don’t know if they’ll want more than what they’re getting.”

Surely they will - if Benson takes the plan he ran with after the Saints' first playoff win in 2000 (when the current $186 million inducement package was first negotiated).

Benson will want a new stadium built, probably with the state footing the bill. And he'll probably want more money for inducements from the state, to bring the team's profits up and make the franchise more valuable.

We shall see.

Saints fans, enjoy the heck out of this run. After the season this great flight might be hitting some major turbulence.

You'd think the vultures would have given up by now.

Guess again.

Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News wants you to know that there were a lot of people from his city at the Superdome on Saturday in Tom Benson's suite.

Most of the article actually is positive and true. Benson does have a lot of business ties to San Antonio, and his friends from there want the Saints to succeed.

But the article twists the knife that still exists in the back of Saints Nation by quoting T.J. Connolly, a former spokesman for Benson:

"To go from 3-13 to the Super Bowl under these circumstances is material for a movie. But it doesn't mean New Orleans has the Saints forever. Being in the Super Bowl won't erase the challenges the city faces. It (New Orleans) still faces an uphill battle to sustain an NFL franchise.

"I don't want to dampen the excitement of this weekend or rain on anyone's parade, but you have to be realistic. And I'm not going to back away from saying the Saints are a prime candidate to relocate to San Antonio."
You've got to be kidding me.

News flash: The NFL has zero interest in having a team play there, particularly in an Alamodome that has around half the available suites and hundreds less available seats than the Superdome.

Yes, that Superdome. The one that sold every seat this season. The one San Antonio insisted wouldn't be half full in '06.

Besides, isn't San Antonio Cowboy country? Don't the Pokes conduct training camp there?

That Connolly and Orsborn don't want to rain on anyone's parade is an absolute crock.

San Antonio just won't quit kicking New Orleans and Louisiana while they are still hurting from Katrina and Rita, in an obvious effort to steal the Saints.

Thanks again.

By the way, if a few category five tornadoes rip through and devastate San Antonio, Baton Rouge will happily play host to the Spurs. Maybe they'll unabashedly emphasize San Antonio's inability to support them, and try to keep them there permanently.

Besides, they can't stay in San Antonio forever, can they?

Here's a couple of links, one somewhat positive and the other downright cold:

"Saint-elsewhere to Heaven-Saint" - Greg Couch, Chicago Sun-Times
"Saints, Hornets future in New Orleans in doubt" - Evan Weiner, New York Sun


Got a comment? Email me at


Anonymous ashley said...

Believe it or not, Orsborn is a pretty good guy. His stories, while reporting stuff that makes me mad as hell, have truly been written from an objective point of view.

And in a conversation with him, he genuinely seemed to want the Saints to stay in NOLA.

I can't say the same for the rest of the newspaper staff...

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