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, March 27, 2007

More on Saints deal to stay in New Orleans through 2010

Here's an updated version of the Times-Picayune article by Jeff Duncan on the Saints' deal with the state to not invoke exit clauses and remain in New Orleans through 2010.

A few quick thoughts:
(1) Governor Kathleen Blanco said that negotiations are geared towards a deal that would keep the Saints in New Orleans through at least 2025, if not longer. Those negotiations will likely be concluded with her successor.
(2) Saints owner Tom Benson was positive and optimistic, but remained noncommittal to the team's prospects beyond 2010. He noted that a lot of improvements to the Superdome still need to be completed, but didn't commit to whether he thought the 31-year-old stadium would be sufficient beyond 2010.
(3) The league apparently is looking at reconstruction of New Orleans over the next three to four years as a critical factor in determining whether the team stays put beyond 2010. In other words, our politicians need to really step up to the plate and deliver. The next governor will be instrumental in whether the team stays or goes.
(4) Benson wants to continue receiving annual inducement payments from the state to remain in New Orleans; Blanco wants to end those payments. Previous NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was very critical of the inducement payment setup. It's not clear whether current commissioner Roger Goodell favors them or not. This issue will be critical to a long-term deal, and again, the next governor will be instrumental in this. As an aside, Benson has supported Bobby Jindal through financial contributions to his campaign dating back to 2004. Obviously Jindal's election would be tremendously beneficial to the long term prospects of the Saints remaining home in New Orleans.


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Monday, March 26, 2007

BREAKING: Saints, state agree to drop exit clauses; Saints will stay in New Orleans through 2010

Several media outlets are reporting this morning that the Saints and the state of Louisiana have reached an agreement to drop exit clauses from their current lease agreement so that the team can remain in New Orleans until at least 2010. A news conference will be held today at 10 a.m.

As it should be and usually is, the most descriptive account comes from the Times-Picayune. Jeff Duncan writes that the agreement includes a commitment from the state to continue improvements to the Superdome, which are still ongoing.

Today's news means the Saints will not leave New Orleans for the next four years, and that franchise officials and the next governor of Louisiana will focus on hammering out a long-term deal over that same time period.

Because regurgitating the very informative article by Duncan on this very positive development would leave out some information, you can read the entire piece here.

Friends, toast this one - it's great news!


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Friday, March 23, 2007

Positive news: Owners meeting talk furthers confirmation of San Antonio being out of the mix, L.A. on backburner

With the NFL's annual owners meeting set to begin this weekend in Phoenix, a few key issues regarding the Saints have been brought to light by the New York Sun's Evan Weiner in this article today.

Perhaps most importantly, Weiner confirms earlier reports that San Antonio is pretty much done as an NFL relocation option. Weiner writes:
"[T]he city of San Antonio has been relegated to the sidelines, having abandoned its search for an NFL (or Major League Baseball) franchise, which further limits the threat of relocation by the Yorks, Spanos, Wilf, or Saints owner Tom Benson. San Antonio and Bexar County, Texas, officials thought they were players in the stadium game until last week, when they were led to forfeit after neither NFL nor MLB officials expressed interest in the city.

"Perhaps San Antonio officials shouldn't have been surprised. The city's Alamodome was a stateof-the-art football facility when it opened in 1993 — but that was 14 years ago. Today, the multipurpose facility requires hundreds of millions of dollars in renovations.

"The San Antonio–Austin, Texas area is also a weak television market with a limited corporate base. The region's corporate community and rank-and-file ticket buyers already show their support for the NBA's Spurs. (San Antonio also has a baseball team in the Double A Texas League and an American Hockey League club.) A second major league franchise in San Antonio could result in a financial calamity for both the Spurs and the new team. There is just not enough of a market to sustain both.

"Even after Benson took his Saints from the Katrina-ravaged Superdome to play three games at the Alamodome, NFL officials remained convinced that San Antonio was simply not much of a market for pro football. Part of that reasoning may be attributable to Jerry Jones, whose Cowboys trained in San Antonio in 2002 and 2003 and will return this summer for training camp. Jones has signed a five-year deal with city officials, which grants him rent-free use of the Alamodome. San Antonio is part of the Dallas market and the league may be wary of cutting into McNair's Houston Texans revenue stream."
In other (and fewer) words, San Antonio is out of the running for a potential Saints relocation.

Next in terms of importance, Weiner writes that the NFL's Los Angeles dream is still just that, and it looks increasingly unlikely that a move will be made to that market in the short-term future. It is a "city without a state-of-the-art stadium" and possibilities for stadium sites in the L.A. area have fallen apart over the last few months.

Adding to the L.A. problem is the revelation by Weiner that the league's stadium-building subsidy program, also known as G-3, has emptied its coffers. In order to replenish this fund, owners may have to re-tool revenue sharing. Until that happens, it is likely that no discussion of building a stadium in Los Angeles can even begin to take place.

In short, the L.A. option is now dead.

Without San Antonio and Los Angeles as viable prospective relocation options, Benson has very little leverage in hinting a relocation from New Orleans - especially when season tickets are sold out and have a wait list 25,000 deep, and all Superdome suites are also sold out.

Friends, things are looking increasingly positive that the Saints will stay home in New Orleans beyond 2010, when their current agreement with Louisiana expires.

Now, we wait with baited breath for news on negotiations between Benson and the state, which we expect to hear within the next week.

With current governor Kathleen Blanco's announcement that she is not running for re-election this November, the pressure is off her politically to solidify a deal. But the pressure is on her to do so to help repair her incredibly fractured legacy. And, conversely, the pressure on Benson to not deal with someone he'd probably prefer not to benefit politically is off of him. (Recall his support for Bobby Jindal in 2003's gubernatorial election.) So, who knows how things will turn out?

In any event, the odds are steadily swinging in favor of the Saints staying in New Orleans. Keep your fingers crossed, and stay optimistic.


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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

BREAKING: Blanco to announce she won't seek re-election

Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco will announce tonight that she will not seek re-election this fall. No word on how this will impact the Saints negotiations, but check back here for updates...


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S.A. Express News columnist says city should 'surrender to reality', give up on seeking Saints

San Antonio Express-News columnist Richard Oliver has penned a piece for today's edition entitled "It's time for S.A. to focus on itself", wherein he wrote that the city should "surrender to reality" and give up trying to rip the Saints from New Orleans.

The column, which focuses not only on the Saints but all professional sports, is a follow-up to recent news in San Antonio that a consultant told the city pretty much the same thing.

Oliver also devoted two paragraphs to the Saints, their owner, and their fans:
"Here in New Orleans, where the Saints' resurgence from disaster has taken them from South Texas to the NFC title game two months ago, the team announced this week that it has sold 68,000 season tickets for the 2007 campaign. Additionally, it is closing in on selling out its 137 luxury suites at the resurrected Superdome, again a sparkling downtown centerpiece.

"No matter owner Tom Benson's longing gazes toward the west, battered New Orleans has put its money where its heart is."
Oliver failed to also point out that the season ticket wait list now runs over 25,000 deep. But he gets the point, and kudos to him for being somebody from that city who recognizes that the Saints belong in New Orleans, the fans have shown their support in record-breaking fashion, Benson now seems focused on keeping the team in New Orleans, and the league just is not interested in moving a team to San Antonio.

Now, if certain others (i.e. Red McCombs) get the memo, maybe we can finally stop hearing about San Antonio trying to steal the Saints.

In the meantime, we just need to see how negotiations between Benson and the state pan out. Hopefully we'll have some indication on that front within the next 11 days or so.


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Monday, March 19, 2007

Saints, state in ongoing negotiations; News blackout prevails

Today's Times-Picayune reports that the Saints and the state of Louisiana are involved in ongoing negotiations toward a goal of keeping the franchise in New Orleans beyond 2010, when the current lease agreement expires.

An apparent deadline exists for the new deal of March 31, which is the final date when the Saints can opt out of the lease agreement by payment of a penalty of over $61 million.

As part of the negotiations, both parties have agreed to a news blackout, meaning no new information will surface until, state officials say, all terms of a new agreement are finalized.

Obviously, it would be a major development if a new deal was ironed out (and would also end the reason for this site's existence). While there are efforts to prevent new news from being disseminated, keep checking back here for any updates.


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Thursday, March 15, 2007

UPDATE: Saints sell out suites for 2007 season; Season ticket wait list 25,000 deep; San Antonio finally giving up?

In a somewhat stunning (and exciting) development, the Times-Picayune is reporting that state officials have announced that the Saints have completely sold all available Superdome suites for the entire 2007 season. (The updated story is available here.)

The Times-Picayune also states that the team's fans will repeat last year's feat, and buy all season tickets for 2007 as well. Plus, the Saints have a season ticket waiting list that now extends over 25,000 deep (which is just mind-boggling).

It's an incredibly positive development for the long-term viability of the franchise in New Orleans. Rita Benson LeBlanc was quoted in the article to say, "We are extremely appreciative of the support we received from fans and local businesses last season and are very encouraged with the response so far in 2007. We are hard at work to make sure the Saints are successful, both on and off the field, and look forward to announcing any team milestones when they are achieved." (An official team announcement will take place after March 31, the deadline for payment for the suites.)

This news further makes it increasingly difficult to reasonably relocate the franchise from New Orleans.

Also, the article quotes Tim Coulon, chairman of the Superdome Commission, as calling this a "milestone."

And, the original article quotes LSED commissioner Robert Bruno as responding to the New York Times article cited here in saying, "This is important because we've has such unfair and wrong criticism about the suites, the Saints, the Dome and other issues. It's definitely time to strike back."

Celebrate this one, Saints fans. It's a special development that should go a long way in terms of keeping the Saints in New Orleans.

The San Antonio Express-News reports today that the city may finally be quitting its vulturistic behavior toward New Orleans and will instead focus on its own city's developments.

Consultant Michael Sculley has informed the city that based on conversations with the NFL and MLB, city officials should use tax revenues on matters other than attempting to attract other professional sports franchises to San Antonio.

Most interestingly, local judge Nelson Wolff, who has been quoted in other pieces for items related to the Saints, told the Express-News that new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told him in January that the league had zero interest in having a franchise in San Antonio.

Yet here we sit, two months later, and some in the city are still debating the issue.

Thanks yet again, San Antonio.

At least they're taking it well. Or maybe they're not.

Sculley was quoted as saying, "I think we need to be proactive and tell (the NFL and MLB), 'You've turned your back on us long enough. It's time we take care of our own.'"

After its actions over the last year and a half, San Antonio should know plenty about turning its back on other cities.


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Friday, March 09, 2007

New York Sun shines spotlight on Benson, Saints, San Antonio; Two vultures that just won't quit

Today's New York Sun shines a quick spotlight on the professional sports situation in New Orleans, largely rehashing what is already known to those keeping up with the Saints' off-the-field location issues.

The article, entitled "Pro Sports Far From Easy in New Orleans" by Evan Weiner (who also penned this piece in January's Sun), doesn't contain any earth-shattering news. Perhaps the only real "news" from the article regarding the Saints is that it does state that a former possible plan to move the Saints to Mississippi is no longer on the table.

In this recent San Antonio Business Journal article (which reviewed a poll that revealed most people in San Antonio - by a 2-to-1 margin - do not believe the Saints will relocate there), two prominent vultures are still circling New Orleans with hopes of stealing the Saints from their home city.

The article names former Vikings owner Red McCombs and former Valero Energy Corp. chairman Bill Greehey as the two vultures who just won't give up. They told the Business Journal that "the city may still have an opportunity to land the Saints."

This after the Saints have had exactly one season since Katrina, wherein they sold out the entire Superdome and sold more suites than the Alamodome could ever wish to hold.

Thanks again for your support, San Antonio.


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Friday, March 02, 2007

Horn: Saints wanted to move to San Antonio

Former Saints wide receiver Joe Horn (it's strange typing that) lashed out at his former team in today's Fayetteville Observer regarding his release.

While much will be said about other comments he has made as of late, one stood out to me more than the rest:
"If I wanted out of New Orleans that bad, I would have just kept my mouth shut and let them move the team to San Antonio."
While many will point to the subtle and arrogant perspective that Horn had that much power to prevent such a move, what I take from it is a statement from the former face of the franchise that the team was intending on moving to San Antonio, and that he at least strenuously voiced his opposition.

Not that this wasn't obvious from the team's actions in late 2005 pre-Tagliabue intervention. But from what I can recall, it's the first time that a potential " San Antonio" has been publicly stated by someone from the inside in these terms.

Maybe I'm wrong on that and have forgotten some previous comments. At the moment I don't have time to run back through previous posts from late 2005 and early 2006. (When I have more time I'll go back through and double-check this.)

But that's what struck me.

Other than that, it's sad to see Joe go, and I hate that this is how it's happening. He should be a future Saints Hall of Famer who will be missed and fondly remembered.


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