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Proposal Would Keep Saints in State

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Proposal would keep Saints in state Attorney: NFL makes assurances for '06 Tuesday, November 08, 2005 By Jeff Duncan, Times-Picayune The NFL has assured state officials the Saints will play their 2006 season in Louisiana, the attorney who represents the ...

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Old 11-08-2005, 07:44 AM   #1
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Proposal Would Keep Saints in State

Proposal would keep Saints in state
Attorney: NFL makes assurances for '06

Tuesday, November 08, 2005
By Jeff Duncan, Times-Picayune

The NFL has assured state officials the Saints will play their 2006 season in Louisiana, the attorney who represents the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District said Monday.

A proposed agreement reached between the Saints and the state last week would commit the team to play next season in Baton Rouge and/or New Orleans, Larry Roedel said.

Roedel said he plans to meet this week with Saints' representatives to work on the contract language. Once signed, the agreement will become legally binding.

"The spirit of the consensus reached among the NFL, the Saints and the state last Friday was that the 2006 season will be played in Louisiana, based primarily in Baton Rouge (at) Tiger Stadium, but with the hope that the Superdome is ready for one or more games," Roedel said. ". . . We have assurances from the NFL that the 2006 season will be played here (in Louisiana), and we trust those assurances."

Owner Tom Benson, team executive-owner Rita Benson LeBlanc and chief financial officer Dennis Lauscha met with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue in Washington, D.C., on Monday to discuss plans for the 2006 season.

NFL and Saints officials declined comment on the meeting.

Last week, Benson and Gov. Kathleen Blanco agreed to postpone until after the 2006 season two termination deadlines in the team's Superdome lease.

The move pushes back from Nov. 27 a contract provision giving the Saints the authority to break their contract with the state because the Superdome is not usable after damage received during Hurricane Katrina. That deadline has been pushed back to Jan. 15, 2007.

It also extends a 90-day window, with a March 31, 2006, deadline, in the current agreement that gives the Saints the right to move to another city after this season if the club pays the state an $81 million penalty -- the amount the team received during the first four years of the 10-year, $186.5 million deal signed in 2001. That date has been extended by one year to March 31, 2007.

"Mr. Benson understands, and kindly proposed in his letter, the reason for the extensions of those two dates, which allows the 2005 season to be finished without a cloud of uncertainty, and allows the 2006 season to be planned without the pressure of unrealistic deadlines," Roedel said. "In the consensus reached, both goals can be accomplished."

State officials said the Superdome will be ready for games by this time next season. The building suffered an estimated $125 million to $150 million in damage from Katrina and the occupancy of 25,000 storm victims in the week afterward. State officials expect to receive a damage assessment on the building by the end of this month.

If the Saints deem the Superdome unplayable, they still could invoke the "Act of God" provision in an attempt to break the lease before the new deadline, but such an action would spark a legal fight, Roedel said.

"If the Saints raise the force majeure provision at any time up to and including January 2007, the state's response will be that the Dome is being repaired and that the state has provided an acceptable alternate site (LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge), such that breaking the Stadium Agreement is not justified," Roedel said. "Just as the Saints' contention may be asserted until January 2007, so can our defensive positions."

Benson moved the Saints' operations to San Antonio in early September after Katrina devastated the New Orleans area.

Tagliabue hasn't ruled out the possibility of the Saints playing some games in San Antonio in 2006.

San Antonio mayor Phil Hardberger continues to openly court the Saints and said he believes Benson wants to move the team there permanently.

Benson pledged in an e-mail to Tagliabue last week to "not return to Baton Rouge for any reason, including any games scheduled for the end of this season or a contemplated next season" because of "inadequate to nonexistent" security at Tiger Stadium.

The Saints are in the process of relocating their operations in San Antonio.

The club's business and football operations have been housed at the Alamodome for several weeks but will have to move because of prior commitments. The NCAA women's volleyball final four is scheduled for Dec. 15-17 at the Alamodome, as is the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28.

Christian Archer, special assistant to Hardberger, said the Saints are close to signing a lease to occupy office space in an old San Antonio Water System-owned facility near the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in downtown San Antonio.

He said the Saints could use the unoccupied building for a few months, but eventually would have to leave because it is scheduled for demolition in the spring.

"The stuff that we're looking at is not a long-term solution," Archer said. "This is a temporary solution to house the administration. It's certainly not a long-term thing."


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