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

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Potential Saints relocation called 'horribly cruel'; NFL leaving Saints support to New Orleans; New stadium labeled 'fairy tale'

Three recent articles on the Saints have mentioned potential relocation for New Orleans' beloved franchise. Here's a rundown:

Arizona Republic columnist Dan Bickley has penned a piece, "Moving the Saints wouldn't be a surprise," that notes that moving the Saints would be "horribly cruel."

While it offers little new news, the column astutely points out that eight of the current 32 franchises have relocated from their host cities since 1982 - that's 25 percent of all franchises.

The obvious implication is that the image-conscious NFL has little conscience when it comes to fans in a city that, by league standards, is determined to be subpar.

On the Saints, Bickley writes, "Their owner, Tom Benson, has many ties and many car dealerships in San Antonio. The NFL has a gaping hole in Los Angeles. The ceiling of corporate dollars is too low in New Orleans, and the lure of new money may be too much to resist."

But, Bickley counters to state that of all previous NFL relocations, the Saints leaving New Orleans would be the worst.

A column by Vito Stellino of, entitled "Saints success masks big issue", notes a couple of troubling issues for Saints fans.

First, the article quotes NFL executive VP Joe Browne to state, "We want the Saints to succeed in New Orleans, but the business community, especially, has to step up and continue to support them. We already have the best revenue-sharing plans in sports, and that helps teams like New Orleans in a small market."

In other words, the league is done with ponying up any more dough to keep the Saints in New Orleans.

This, after the push to establish a team in Los Angeles meant (and may still mean) the league footing a bill upwards of $1 billion to construct a new stadium there.


And, Stellino points out that "money in pro football comes from luxury boxes, stadium naming rights and sponsorships," meaning Buffalo's ability to hold onto the Bills is in trouble, and the same goes for New Orleans and the Saints:
"That's also why the Saints are in trouble. They sold out their tickets this season, which would have made them viable 20 years ago. Not now. New Orleans doesn't have enough remaining corporate presence that will buy luxury boxes and sponsorships."
Stellino's likely relocation spots for the Saints include Los Angeles and (gag) San Antonio after the team's Superdome lease expires in 2010.

Finally, Jim Mashek of the Sun Herald (MS), in his column entitled, "Saints have these questions to ponder for next year", touches briefly on possible relocation and writes the following:
"The Saints won't have any trouble selling season tickets for next year, but we'd like to see club owner Tom Benson make some real progress on the front of making the Louisiana Superdome the team's permanent home. Benson needs to forget about the fairy tale of a new stadium any time soon. New Orleans has a city to rebuild."
Here's to guessing that the "facility problem" cited by Saints chief financial officer Dennis Lauscha here means the real fairy tale is believing the Saints won't ask for a new stadium in upcoming negotiations with the state.

Should be an interesting offseason...


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Anonymous Relocation Sugarland said...

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue met with Benson and Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco at the Saints' first home game in Baton Rouge on October 30 against the Miami Dolphins. After the meeting, he stopped just short of making a formal commitment to keep the Saints in New Orleans. Said Tagliabue: "The Saints are Louisiana's team and have been since the late '60s when my predecessor Pete Rozelle welcomed them to the league as New Orleans' team and Louisiana's team. Our focus continues to be on having the Saints in Louisiana." He dispelled rumors that have the Saints relocating to Los Angeles. Tagliabue will form an eight-owner advisory committee to help decide the team's future[3]. Benson left the game with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. While leaving the stadium, a WWL-TV camera crew recorded him leaving the stadium. Benson angrily pushed the camera away and then got into an argument with a fan. Video of the altercation was obtained by WWL-TV[4]. Three days later, Benson issued a statement that he would no longer go to Baton Rouge for Saints home games because he felt he and his family were in danger from abuse at the game[5],

The following day, Benson had also agreed with Louisiana state officials to extend his opt out clause with the Superdome and Louisiana because of the disaster until January 2007. Reports speculate this buys Benson time to see how the situation unfolds without having to make a decision now.

In the midst of the Katrina relocation controversy, several groups of investors have approached Benson with offers to buy the team and keep them in Louisiana, the most notable group being one led by FOX Sports analyst and former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who is a Louisiana native[6]. However, Benson has expressed that he has no intentions of selling the team and plans to eventually hand down ownership to his granddaughter, Saints owner/executive Rita Benson LeBlanc. Benson spoke to press following an NFL owners' meeting on November 15, at which he reiterated that the team is not for sale, but also stated that other NFL owners, along with Tagliabue, were working with him to keep the team in New Orleans[7].

On December 5, Tagliabue met with Benson and New Orleans officials to tour the city and assess the viability of playing in New Orleans in 2006. On January 11, 2006, at a press conference in New Orleans, Tagliabue announced that the Saints will likely play all eight home games at the Superdome[8]. Superdome officials said January 12 that the Dome will be ready by September 1, 2006[9]. The NFL announced on February 5, 2006, that the Superdome would reopen on September 24 when the Saints host the Atlanta Falcons[10].

However, Tagliabue said the team's preseason games would likely be played elsewhere in the region. He also said that the Saints and the NFL were committed to New Orleans for the long haul.

Starting in the fall of 2006, the Saints returned to playing all of their regular home games of the 2006 season in New Orleans at the Superdome.

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