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pakowitz 05-14-2003 10:09 PM

Long wait is over for Benson, AFL, VooDoo

Wednesday May 14, 2003

By Darrell Williams
Staff writer

In 1998, the Saints' Tom Benson became the first owner of an NFL team to commit to purchasing an Arena Football League team. Tuesday at New Orleans Arena, Benson and a host of AFL, Saints and political and civic leaders unveiled the team's logo while expressing his desire to field one of the league's best teams.

"This is an exciting time," Benson said. "We've been working on this for a long time. It will be an extension of football in New Orleans. The Saints and VooDoo -- only in New Orleans can you do that."

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Benson said the team will announce the hiring of a coach and other personnel in the coming months. However, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said the NFL team will do more than lend a helping hand in helping the VooDoo attain an Arena championship.

"(The Saints) have a capable and extensive scouting staff, for instance," he said. "We have scouts who'll know what it takes to play in the Arena League. We have expertise in strength and conditioning, in video. The VooDoo will have its own staff, but we can help without detracting from our job with the Saints."

One thing the VooDoo will not be is a Saints farm team, Loomis said.

"We have (Pro Bowl kick returner) Michael Lewis, who played in the (Indoor Professional League), but we're not looking to develop players for the Saints with the VooDoo," he said. "The VooDoo will stand on its own."

Loomis said that once a coach/general manager and three assistant coaches are hired, the VooDoo will conduct a series of tryouts. Information on the team can be obtained through its Web site,

The announcement concerning the VooDoo comes one year after the team was approved to play in the Arena League. Benson felt it was best to delay the inaugural season because New Orleans had just landed the Hornets and a lease agreement had to be worked out.

The VooDoo looks like a good investment. When David Baker became commissioner in 1996, Arena franchises cost $400,000. Last year, the former Nashville team was sold to a group in Atlanta for $12 million.

Since Benson applied for an AFL team, three other NFL owners have gotten Arena teams -- the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones, the Detroit Lions' William Ford Jr. and the Denver Broncos' Pat Bowlen. Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams has the rights to a team in Nashville that may begin play next season, and nine other NFL owners have expressed interest in establishing a franchise, Baker said. But it began with Benson.

"The NFL had a provision in its charter that if you owned an NFL team, you couldn't own another pro franchise," Baker said. "Tom Benson expressed an interest in buying an Arena Football League team, and two months later, the NFL provision was changed."

rusta 05-16-2003 07:35 PM

Long wait is over for Benson, AFL, VooDoo
i think this is bad idea on benson\'s part, arena football is not a money maker and although they claim that the saints staff helping the voodoo will not adversely affect the saints performance i can\'t help but feel otherwise, i could be wrong but it just sounds like a bad idea, i like the fact that NO has an arena team but not that it is owned by benson

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