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DomeFoam 11-17-2004 09:42 PM

Benson Announces New Plans With State (IMPORTANT!)
You guys must be sleeping, what's the deal? Why isn't anyone posting about this?

Saints want Dome renovation deal
Team would get cash and remain to 2020

Wednesday, November 17, 2004
By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer

The Saints today will launch a campaign for a new long-term agreement with the state that focuses on a Superdome renovation instead of a new stadium, but also continues annual cash inducements for the team in exchange for a commitment to remain in Louisiana through 2020, two sources said.

A team release announcing today's news conference said Saints owner Tom Benson would "outline a broad vision for the team in order to remain in New Orleans for the long term." The news conference is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at the team's Metairie headquarters.

Saints officials said Tuesday that they would withhold all comments until today's meeting, but two team sources said that Benson's vision focuses on a plan to renovate the Superdome and extend the team's contract with the state through 2020. The plan also proposes that the Dome renovation be part of a multifaceted economic development package that includes projects in eastern New Orleans and Jefferson Parish.

Though the Saints remain open to a new stadium, sources said team officials recognize there is little economic or public support for such a facility, estimated to cost at least $450 million.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco said last month that she favors renovating the Dome. The cost of the projects the Saints will propose today, as well as potential financing sources, will be announced in a state-financed study to be released in two weeks, sources said. The Saints have played in the Dome since 1975. It is the seventh-oldest stadium in the NFL. Team officials say the club needs the revenue streams created by a renovated Superdome or new stadium to remain competitive financially with the rest of the NFL while existing in one of the league's smallest and most economically challenged markets.

Benson has pushed for a new stadium since 2001, when the Legislature approved $186.5 million in incentives and payments to the Saints to keep them in the Dome through 2010. The deal includes inducements and revenue guarantees that started at $12.5 million a year and rise to $23.5 million in 2008. But the revenue streams intended to cover those payments have fallen short of estimates, which last summer forced the state to take $7 million from an economic development fund to make this year's $15 million payment.

Eliminating 'out clauses'

Under the proposed agreement, sources said the Saints are willing to eliminate all the so-called "out clauses" in the current deal, which allow either side to terminate the agreement before it is completed, if a new deal can be struck.

The current lease agreement allows the Saints to leave after the 2005 season by paying back the $81 million they received during the first four years of the agreement.

The state can opt out of the deal after 2007 if officials don't want to guarantee the $23.5 million annual inducements that begin in 2008.

In their presentation today, the Saints will detail a new plan that extends the team's Superdome lease from 2010 to 2020 -- but also continues the annual cash inducements.

The plan proposes an economic development package comprising both public and private projects. Among them:

-- A 25-acre tailgate park, stretching along Poydras Street from the Superdome to Broad Street. Cost estimates for the park range from $5 million to $10 million.

-- A state-operated high school football and soccer facility to be built on Six Flags New Orleans property in eastern New Orleans.

-- Development of 8 acres of Jefferson Parish land between the Saints training facility and Zephyr Field on Airline Drive. Benson wants to build a hotel and move the Saints Hall of Fame to the property, which is owned by Jefferson Parish and leased to the state through the Superdome Commission.

-- A sports-themed redevelopment of the New Orleans Shopping Centre mall connected to the Superdome. The project would include an NFL-theme restaurant and team gift shop. A team source said the idea already has been received favorably by Hertz Investment Group of Los Angeles, which bought the property last year.

Benson, director of administration Arnold Fielkow, Chief Financial Officer Dennis Lauscha, executive/owner Rita Benson LeBlanc and Benson attorney Stanley Rosenberg will attend the 30-minute presentation. Sources said only a handful of Saints officials and elected officials have seen the presentation, a copy of which they said is being sent to Blanco today, along with a request to begin negotiations.

Super Bowl decision

The Saints plan to propose a Feb. 1 deadline to reach an agreement. That would give the team time to lobby state officials before the legislative session in April and finalize a presentation to bring a future Super Bowl to New Orleans.

New Orleans is expected to compete with Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., for either the 2009 or 2010 Super Bowl. The league plans to award those games at its spring meeting May 23-26.

The NFL will not award a Super Bowl to New Orleans without a signed long-term agreement, sources said.

The Saints proposal comes as the NFL is studying ways to place a team in Los Angeles. The Saints, Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings are the franchises most eligible to move because of their current lease arrangements. The 32-team league has no plans to add an expansion franchise.

NFL officials have expressed a desire to have a team in Los Angeles by 2008, meaning a new long-term agreement between the Saints and the state would effectively end the club's potential to relocate to California.

WhoDat 11-17-2004 10:05 PM

Benson Announces New Plans With State (IMPORTANT!)
I like all of it. Sounds great - especially the redevelopment plans.

One thing really bugs me though - \"but also continues annual cash inducements for the team...\" I don\'t think the State will buy that. They want out of the deal where they have to pay the Saints. Otherwise it looks good.

Where would the Saints play during renovations? Death Valley? 90,000 people at an outdoor Saints game... I just got chills.

DomeFoam 11-18-2004 12:07 AM

Benson Announces New Plans With State (IMPORTANT!)
Governor Blanco\'s Response doesn\'t sound so good...

\"I am pleased that Mr. Benson has warmed up to my original proposal of renovating the Superdome. I am also glad to hear that the Saints want to stay in New Orleans for the long term.

Of course, these negotiations have always been about money, and I heard very little discussion of that in Mr. Benson\'s proposal.

My position remains clear: I would like the Saints to remain in New Orleans and play in a renovated Superdome. I believe that the franchise should help pay for these renovations and that the state\'s lease should be restructured to move away from paying cash inducements and toward providing the team with enhanced opportunities to earn revenues in a renovated Superdome. I also believe that any additional revenues which may be required to cover gaps in financing should be generated in the Greater New Orleans region.

I anticipate making my own proposal to Mr. Benson in the coming weeks. I believe that addressing the core issues I\'ve listed above will be challenging enough without also having to address the significant costs to the state represented by all the other \"extras\" included in the Saints proposal today, unless, of course, the Saints want to pay for those things themselves.\"

Gov. Blanco

mutineer10 11-18-2004 03:56 AM

Benson Announces New Plans With State (IMPORTANT!)

Where would the Saints play during renovations?

Maybe they could play at that 8 acre football & soccer facility at Six Flags! If you got bored with the game, you could just grab another beer and hit the coasters! :puke:

And $5 mil to $10 mil for a \"tailgate park?\" Don\'t get me wrong, sounds great, but isn\'t that AKA a \"parking lot?\" Who are these guys, the US Government?

Silliness aside, it\'s nice to see some more encouraging news. I just hope Benson & Blanco don\'t screw it up...

Danno 11-18-2004 06:44 AM

Benson Announces New Plans With State (IMPORTANT!)
Step one in the relocation process has officially begun.

From what I\'ve read elsewhere, (I\'ve been away for quite some time) New Orleans is a dying city. The politicians continue to cry for more and more money for education (yea, right), dump a ton in and still they get worse and worse. The economy is deteriorating because of the horrid education system, crooked politicians (moreso than most cities) and hostility toward big business, among many other things. Or so I\'ve been told. Feel free to correct me if I\'m wrong.

The only thing that may save this city is the Saint\'s franchise and the revenue, attention and jobs it brings to it. But Blanco and company can\'t see that far ahead. Like most politicians they have a static view of things. \"Its just a football team.\"

One thing is sure, if the Saints do leave there will NEVER be another NFL franchise in New Orleans.

But hey, at least we have the Hornets. Whoopty-frickin-doo. :mad:

johnnythesaint 11-18-2004 07:33 AM

Benson Announces New Plans With State (IMPORTANT!)
I posted about this while the conference was on live, nobody seemed to care so I left it alone.

WhoDat 11-18-2004 08:26 AM

Benson Announces New Plans With State (IMPORTANT!)
Danno - you\'re right, New Orleans is a dying City - in almost every respect. Education and the lack of economy are the primary concerns, but that\'s a catch 22. Big oil fled to Texas in the 60\'s, 70\'s, and 80\'s. When Benson bought the team N.O. was one of the largest markets in the country and I think it was still the largest in the South. But the exodus of business has created a problem not easy to remedy.

The State and City have no money, and thus pouring money into education and new business development projects is nearly impossible. Those few in NO who actually get an education (like me), leave for cities with greater opportunity. Business sees that there is little skilled labor and even less of a market for their goods so they don\'t move in. The City\'s reputation as a party town doesn\'t help much either. It makes business believe that people aren\'t serious about work in NO - and they\'re not. Not like in other towns. I mean, would you start a business in Las Vegas? I wouldn\'t.

Moreover, both of the City\'s major industries are at risk. Tourism has been down sharply due to 9/11 and an economic downturn. The Army Corp of Engineers is doing everything they can not to allow the River to turn as it naturally appears to want to. If it does, the Port of New Orleans, the second largest port in the nation, is sunk. And speaking of sunk, rising sea levels and erosion threaten to make NO an island by the end of this century. Further, the anti-New Orleans sentiment in Baton Rouge is as rampant as ever. Yeah, the outlook for NO isn\'t pretty.

While I don\'t know that the Saints are the key to N.O., losing them certainly won\'t help anything and will provide greater disincentive to companies to move into the City.

[Edited on 18/11/2004 by WhoDat]

dberce1 11-18-2004 08:53 AM

Benson Announces New Plans With State (IMPORTANT!)
Great post whodat and danno. sad but very true.

WhoDat 11-18-2004 09:32 AM

Benson Announces New Plans With State (IMPORTANT!)
Most telling - just look at this board. Most of the fans here are from Texas, MS, Bama, or much further away - Chicago, Jersey, even Canada. Not a whole lot of natives on the board. Even the members from LA seem tobe from Shreveport, not the City. :( That\'s a shame.

saintswhodi 11-18-2004 09:55 AM

Benson Announces New Plans With State (IMPORTANT!)

I live in Texas cause when I got out of the army at Fort Hood in Killeen, Austin seemed like a good place to live and I wanted to go to UT since the state of Texas gives HUGE education benefits to army members who settle in Texas after they are discharged. I moved on down to San Antonio cause I wasn\'t taking advantage of the education opportunity in Austin, I love the city of San Antonio, have always loved the Spurs long before we got the Hornets, figure the Saints will eventually move to San Antonio, and when I looked for jobs to come back to New Orleans, pretty much nothing could pay me what I make here. It is very very sad. The most depressing story I tell people is when I was in 8th grade at De La Salle high school in the advanced program taking 9th grade classes, then had to go to public school cause my pops couldn\'t afford De La Salle\'s tuition, I never learned another thing. Never picked up another book and never did another piece of homework at home, skipped my junior year entirely, and still graduated 7th in a class of over 300 from John F. Kennedy Senior High School. Now that is a sad testament to the education system in New Orleans. And my moms is a principal at an elementary school down there and it isn\'t getting any better. I would love to raise my kids in my hometown but it isn\'t smart to do so.

I say all this to say, should the Saints leave, I would hate to see my beloved city shrivel up and die. I hope they do whatever they can to make it so they stay, so there will be SOMETHING that will give business options when looking to possibly move to the city.

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