Goodbye NFL ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â€ÂšÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? for now, at least
Goodbye NFL ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â€ÂšÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? for now, at least
The New Orleans Saints are leaving San Antonio after this season, but the city's NFL dreams won't be going with them.
If anything, they got even bigger Friday when league commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Saints owner Tom Benson emphasized in separate statements that the NFL's perception of the market has changed.
"San Antonio has nothing to prove to anyone anymore," said Benson, who announced his team would return to its training facility in Metairie, La., next month and likely would play its 2006 home schedule in Louisiana. "San Antonio is an NFL-caliber city. There is no doubt in anybody's mind anymore. The business community, the individuals and the New Orleans Saints proved that."
Calling San Antonio a "growing and changing market," Tagliabue made it clear the city earned points with the NFL by hosting the displaced team, which averaged 62,666 spectators for the three games at the 65,000-seat Alamodome.
"The sense I have is if we ever get around to considering expansion in the NFL, San Antonio would be on anyone's short list," Tagliabue said.
With that in mind, Tagliabue said he hopes to meet after the season with the city's business leaders and possibly Mayor Phil Hardberger in New York or another location.
"That's something we will be pursuing," Tagliabue said after meeting with Saints players, coaches and staff.
Hardberger, who's vacationing on his boat in the Gulf of Mexico, said in a statement that he would respect Benson's decision to return the Saints to Louisiana. The mayor had hoped to negotiate with Benson after the season for the Saints' permanent relocation to San Antonio.
"All along, this was going to be a decision made by the NFL and the Saints organization," Hardberger said. "Our city welcomed the Saints and supported them when they did not have a home. Our goal was to prove to the NFL that San Antonio is a city that is ready for a team, and we have done that."
The commissioner, who urged the Saints to return to New Orleans to aid in rebuilding efforts following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, didn't rule out more games in San Antonio next season.
"Every effort is going to be made to play as many games as we can in the (Louisiana) Superdome," Tagliabue said, "but based on the information we have now, it is too early to tell if all the games will be there or for that matter in Louisiana."
Benson said the Louisiana state commission that manages the Superdome told him it could be ready for games by Sept.15. He said his team wants to play in one building after splitting home games this season between San Antonio and Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., where the Saints played four games and averaged about 40,000 fans.
"I should know in another 30 days whether we can play all our games in the Superdome," Benson said. "If it's not ready, we might be back in (San Antonio) on our bended knees asking the mayor if we could play a few games here."
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RE: Goodbye NFL ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â€ÂšÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? for now, at least
This is exactly why we need to keep the heat on Benson, the NFL and the state of Louisiana to ensure if they get a team it's not our Saints and here some people you can e-mail often and frequently to get your opinion heard:
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More to follow.
Tags didn't wait too long to meet with city business leaders:
Tom Orsborn: NFL in S.A. 'a matter of time'
Web Posted: 01/03/2006 12:00 AM CST
San Antonio Express-News
Tom Benson's decision to return the Saints to New Orleans left some San Antonians feeling angry, betrayed and disappointed.
Henry Cisneros wasn't one of them.
The former San Antonio mayor and U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary enjoyed a two-hour conversation with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and other league officials Thursday night at a downtown hotel.
Cisneros said he left the meeting convinced San Antonio's four-month stint as host of Benson's displaced team forever changed how the league views the Alamo City.
"It is a fundamentally different ball game now and just a matter of time before San Antonio gets a franchise," Cisneros said Monday. "The only thing we don't know is whether it will happen because the Saints revisit us, another team relocates here or the league expands.
"But whatever the method, in due course, San Antonio will have a team."
Cisneros said he never thought the Saints would stay, mainly because he knew how much Tagliabue wanted the team to return to hurricane-ravaged New Orleans.
"This is not about being misled, because no one misled us," Cisneros said. "This is not about being used, because no one used us.
"I say get over it, grow up and recognize we used this opportunity to our benefit. The truth is we did everything we could with the hand given to us. We acquitted ourselves well and improved our position with the league. This has been a very productive four-month run for San Antonio."
So much so that Tagliabue no longer dismisses the city as a small market, Cisneros said.
"He knows we are ready to be an NFL city and is impressed by the growth of the region," Cisneros said. "I certainly got the impression that he and the other officials understand the economics of San Antonio are fundamentally different" than they were when the league last studied the market in 1999.
With that in mind, Cisneros said, Tagliabue is eager to meet soon with the city's corporate titans, including AT&T Inc.'s Ed Whitacre and Clear Channel Communication's Lowry Mays.
Cisneros said Tagliabue also cited the attendance for the three games the Saints played at the Alamodome. The contests averaged more than 62,000 fans, including a sellout of 65,000-plus for Atlanta on Oct. 16.
"But he was especially impressed that more than 63,000 fans attended the Christmas Eve game against Detroit," Cisneros said. "It was a game on a tough date between losing teams and the attendance was 63,000."
Cisneros said Tagliabue even expressed respect and admiration for Mayor Phil Hardberger, who lobbied loudly for the Saints to stay in San Antonio permanently.
"(Hardberger) played the appropriate role a mayor should play and the league respects that," Cisneros said.
Before leaving San Antonio on Friday, Tagliabue told reporters that, should the league consider expansion, "San Antonio would be on anyone's short list."
Cisneros took it a step further.
"I would say we would be on top of the short list, with only Los Angeles ahead of us," Cisneros said. "Instead of feeling betrayed, we should feel confident.
"San Antonio has to get over the inferiority complex that we can't do this. We proved this year in fan base and corporate support we can do it."
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