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saintz08 12-31-2005 01:00 PM

Saints will leave San Antonio
Saints will leave San Antonio

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue have reached an agreement to return the displaced team to its state-owned training facility in Metairie, La., after the season ends Sunday, sources have told the San Antonio Express-News.

Tagliabue is expected to inform the team's players and coaches of the decision when he meets with them today in San Antonio, said sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

League spokesman Greg Aiello declined comment Thursday night.

The agreement likely eliminates the possibility of the Saints playing home games at the Alamodome in 2006.

City officials had hoped the league would allow the Saints to play most of their games in San Antonio after the team averaged 62,666 for its three games at the dome this season and only 40,310 for four games at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

Aiello said the league would announce the Saints' schedule in January. Benson said last week the team would practice in the state where it would play its games.

The Saints likely will play most of their home schedule in Baton Rouge and perhaps the Louisiana Superdome, which Pelican State officials say could be ready for use by November.

Scheduling conflicts in Louisiana, however, could send the Saints back to the Alamodome for some games.

Benson, who has long-standing personal and business ties to San Antonio, is said to have fears the Saints would struggle to attract fans and generate revenue in New Orleans given the economic shape of the city after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

San Antonio, meanwhile, has a growing corporate base that includes business leaders hungry to secure an NFL franchise.

But the league reportedly is ready to help the Saints financially. Tagliabue said a plan to subsidize the Saints with revenue from visiting teams' shares of gate receipts has been discussed with league owners. Assistance also might be given to the Saints in attracting free agents.

The NFL commissioner repeatedly has said that the Saints belong in Louisiana and that he wants the team to participate in the rebuilding of the area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

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