Making a Case for the "Louisiana Saints"
What Tagliabue may be alluding to in the article below maybe the best chance for the Saints to thrive in Louisiana. I know that what I am about to say is highly unpopular, but perhaps the Saints should look toward relocating permanently to Baton Rouge. We can all agree that for the time being and probably for the long-run, Baton Rouge is and will remain the largest city in Louisiana. I'm not knocking New Orleans, I love the place, but a great deal of New Orleans has now taking up residence in Baton Rouge, and many of those people and businesses plan to relocate there permanently. What has happened this past year in NO bares a striking resemblance to what happened to Galveston at the turn of last century, when most residence moved permanently inland to Houston. One of the biggest and maybe the only positives that could be taken from Sunday's game is the great attendance. Whether people would like to admit it or not Baton Rouge, is not only the largest city in Louisiana, but it is also centrally located within the state, making it more accessible to people from Lafayette, Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, Monroe, and Lake Charles. That goes a long, long way toward expanding the Saints fan base.
That's just a suggestion from a lowly Saints fan. I would like to here what others have to say.
NFL wants Saints to stay
But they may not belong to N.O. alone
Monday, October 31, 2005
By Jeff Duncan
BATON ROUGE Saints owner Tom Benson has balked at making a firm commitment to keep his team in Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
On Sunday, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue did it for him.
Making the strongest pledge yet to the storm-ravaged area's weary fans, Tagliabue said the Saints plan to be a part of a rebuilt Louisiana, albeit perhaps as a remodeled franchise that represents the entire state and Gulf Coast region.
"The Saints are Louisiana's team," Tagliabue said before the Saints' 21-6 loss to Miami at LSU's Tiger Stadium, the club's first official visit to Louisiana since the storm devastated the region two months ago. "We're dealing with a rebuilding here, and we're going to make every effort to keep the New Orleans Saints as Louisiana's team."
However, Tagliabue stopped short of making a long-term commitment, saying the recovery of the New Orleans and Gulf Coast regions ultimately will decide the club's future. The projected loss of population and businesses could potentially cripple the city as a professional sports market, he said.
"We have to be realistic and consider not only the facilities issue but the human issue," he said. "It's more about the overall recovery of the area than it is about facilities. We need to realize there's been a tremendous human toll, and for the Saints and NFL to come back in the proper way we need to recognize the human toll and take it into account."
No decision made
Tagliabue's comments to an overflow media gathering that included reporters from across the nation came after a packed weekend of meetings with state political and business leaders.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco hosted a reception at the Governor's Mansion in Tagliabue's honor that was also attended by Benson, members of the Legislature, the Louisiana Stadium and Exhibition District, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and some members of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, a panel formed by Blanco to advise her on the rebuilding effort.
Blanco said Benson and Tagliabue would like the team to stay in Louisiana, but that no decisions have been made on how that can be accomplished.
"All three of us are committed to keeping the Saints in Louisiana, but we believe that there will have to be a new model for us to do that," Blanco said.
Benson, meanwhile, kept a low profile. He was not available for comment. He made his usual pregame visit to the sideline and watched the action from a suite high above the fray.
"Tom Benson has been supportive of what I'm doing here," Tagliabue said. "He's going forward and working together with the governor and state officials and business leaders in these activities."
The club's "new model" would involve expanding the Saints' customer base beyond New Orleans while the team's contract with the state is renegotiated.
Hurricane Katrina, Tagliabue said, has forced the Saints to change its business model. The new plan will be to market the team throughout the state and region in similar fashion to the Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings.
"I believe that it'll be very important to have a regional approach, at least for the next two years as we work through the problems of restoring the city of New Orleans," Blanco said.
That new model could also include a new name and a new lease. Tagliabue said the post-Katrina Saints team could be re-branded as the Louisiana Saints or Gulf Coast Saints and criticized the club's lease agreement with the state, which relies on hotel-motel tax revenue to supplement the team's financial shortfalls because of stadium and market limitations.
"A fresh look needs to be taken at the lease arrangements," Tagliabue said. "From my perspective, they are flawed. They haven't been well-thought-through or well-structured."
New lease on life
The governor said Tagliabue urged Benson not to exercise a force majeure clause in the team's lease for the Superdome in late November that would allow the club to get out of its contract with the state without having to pay an $81 million exit penalty.
"(Tagliabue is) interested in having the Saints extend that drop-dead date to some point beyond that, which would take us past the end of the season," Blanco said. "And that would give everybody a chance to calm down.
"Anytime you have a major trauma or a major loss in your life, you don't make quick decisions because it will inevitably be possibly the wrong decision," Blanco said. "And so he (Tagliabue) is urging that the Saints should back off of their legal ability to demand a decision quickly."
It's uncertain how the weekend's developments affect San Antonio, the city where the Saints have set up temporary offices since early September. Tagliabue did not rule out San Antonio as an alternative playing site for next season and beyond, but made it clear that the New Orleans and the surrounding region is the preferred option.
"We'll consider all alternatives and leave no stone unturned," he said.
Los Angeles Saints?
One of those alternatives presumably is Los Angeles. Tagliabue has stated that he wants to place a team in the league's second-largest market by 2010, and the Saints have long been considered one of the front-runners to relocate there. However, stadium and political issues continue to delay progress.
A report in The Washington Post on Thursday said the NFL will consider moving the Saints to Los Angeles if the post-Katrina New Orleans market can't support the team.
Tagliabue called the report "nonsensical."
"L.A.'s been a landing spot for the Indianapolis Colts, the Arizona Cardinals, the Seattle Seahawks, the Minnesota Vikings and many other teams, and last time I looked they're all operating in their communities and L.A.'s not on the radar screen."
Tagliabue hinted that Benson might have violated NFL policy by speaking with San Antonio officials about relocating to Texas' third-largest city. While Benson has never publicly admitted to the courtship, San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger said the Saints and city have conducted talks for more than a year and he believes Benson wants to move there.
"Teams don't operate as free agents so they can run around the country and play where they want to play," Tagliabue said. "We've got a very specific set of guidelines on that, and my assumption is that every owner is complying with that policy."
Saints in Baton Rouge
Tagliabue said no timetable for decisions has been made. He said the first priority is to determine a playing site for next season. Tagliabue has appointed eight owners to a New Orleans Advisory Committee to help the league and Saints administer the process.
Doug Thornton, regional vice president for the company that manages the Superdome, told the Louisiana Stadium and Exhibition District board he thinks the building could be available for use by mid-October 2006. But that's if the building is repaired only to its pre-Katrina state.
That means the Saints might have to play part or all of their home schedule in Baton Rouge for the foreseeable future.
"We have not worked out any particular details at this point in time," Blanco said. "The model that Commissioner Tagliabue referred to is the fact there are two major stadiums (in Louisiana), referring to the Superdome and Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. In his book, that meant that we're not tethered there (to New Orleans)."
LSU Chancellor Sean O'Keefe, who hosted Tagliabue at the Tigers' game against North Texas on Saturday night, said the university is on board.
"We have assured the NFL and the state that we're willing to do whatever the state wants us to do to help the situation," O'Keefe said.
Blanco said there's virtually no chance that the state can have a new deal ready to present to the team by late November. Although the Legislature is scheduled to go into a 12-day special session Sunday, any decisions on the team's future will be postponed until January at the earliest.
"Indeed, if we need to go to the Legislature we have ample opportunity to do that in January," she said. "It's very premature right now to put the Saints in this special session. There are no details worked out that we could possibly bring (for debate)."
Blanco said she also discussed with Tagliabue the possibility of New Orleans getting another team if the Saints were to leave for another city. "I certainly told him that . . . at some future time, if all of our efforts fail, we do want to be able to continue discussions with the NFL," she said.
But Blanco said she remains confident that a deal can be forged, provided Benson is willing to compromise.
"I think that as we go through these next few weeks and months that we'll be able to negotiate something satisfactory, and certainly (we) ask for a little tolerance and a little support from everyone," she said.
That support could come in the form of league subsidies. Tagliabue said a plan to subsidize the Saints with revenue from visiting team shares of gate receipts is being discussed with league owners.
Asked whether she received any personal assurance from Benson that he would keep the team in New Orleans, Blanco declined to give a direct answer.
"Mr. Benson would certainly like to see the rhetoric toned down, and has expressed that to me," she said. "We all need to do our part, including Mr. Benson."
"Everything was very positive," said Thornton, who participated in the talks. "Understanding there are still some very big challenges facing us."
Nevertheless, Thornton remained optimistic.
"This was a milestone day," he said.
RE: Making a Case for the "Louisiana Saints"
Come on, people. This is the potentially some of the best news that we have heard in a long while regarding the Saints future here in Louisiana.
RE: Making a Case for the "Louisiana Saints"
Thanks for the post mjf. It certainly sounds cautiously optimistic, and my spirits were lifted.
RE: Making a Case for the "Louisiana Saints"
Who in the hell does that sucker fish think he is? I don't really mind the Louisiana Saint's but come on. Green Bay, Kansas City and others market to other areas but they have their name in tact. Don't let the sucker fish suck you in, he has the eyes of a lamb but the heart of a money hungry devil.
The Saints were already advertising in an expanded market. For the past several years, they've been running ads and doing player appearances here in the Pensacola area.
No reason to change the name in an attempt to gain a more fans.
Gulf Coast Saints...just doesn't sound good.
There are probably more Saints fans here than there are Jax or Miami fans.
Tampa, well there are a lot of Tampa fans around here.
I believe it is a little easier to take pride in a team when it represents an entire region or state, rather than one city. The Saints represent more than NO and the name should reflect that. Lets face it, if it were up to NO alone to support the Saints, they would have been gone along time ago. Most of the financial compensation that the team receives is from the tax dollars of people across the entire state.
If a name change does happen, hopefully they'll go with Louisiana Saints rather than "Gulf Coast" or some other name.
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