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saintz08 04-11-2005 09:17 PM

Blanco wants 40 mil.
State sets Saints' price tag at $40M for Superdome upgrades

BATON ROUGE — The state of Louisiana is asking the Saints to put $40 million toward renovations of the Superdome in its formal offer to team owner Tom Benson, and Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Monday that she wants a peek at the team's financial books if Benson rejects the state's offer and wants further negotiations.
State officials offered a final proposal to the Saints two weeks ago at their final meeting to work on a renegotiated deal to keep the NFL team in New Orleans. Negotiators for both sides now are waiting for Blanco and Benson to sit down and talk about the offer.

A meeting date hasn't been set.

"I'm asking Mr. Benson to make some sacrifices and some personal investments," Blanco told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Benson, who was out of town until this week, has received a full report on where the negotiations are, said Saints vice president of administration Arnold Fielkow.

"He has been fully briefed on the negotiations, the offers and where the discussions are," Fielkow said Monday afternoon. "He is in the process of studying the state's offer and considering his options."

Fielkow said he was unaware of any effort by the governor to set up a meeting, however.

The state's proposal would require the team to give up some of its annual cash payments from the state, though Blanco wouldn't say how much the state is asking the NFL team to relinquish.

Blanco is trying to renegotiate the current $186 million agreement that was worked out in 2001 by the administration of former Gov. Mike Foster and calls for annual payments to the team. The current deal ends in 2010, but allows the Saints to exercise an option after this season to pay an $81 million penalty and leave New Orleans.

The Saints say they need the state infusions of cash to stay competitive in the NFL, but the state has had a hard time keeping up with the payments. The state had to borrow money to make the most recent payment last year and is projected to be $9 million short this year.

"I'd like to not have this annual struggle," Blanco said. "I'd like it to be affordable."

As part of a new deal, Benson originally pushed for a new stadium, but both sides have settled on a renovated Superdome — which is estimated to cost $168 million — with beefed up amenities that would help generate more dollars for the team. Blanco wants the Saints to pick up $40 million of that cost.

And if the state's offer "is not satisfactory" to Benson, Blanco said she wants the Saints to open their books to explain why the team needs more money than the state is offering.


Sarsippius 04-12-2005 12:59 AM

Blanco wants 40 mil.
I actually think this is a fair offer. 40 mil and reduced payments and they still play rent-free in the dome. I hope they sit down and knock this out once and for all...they appear to be closing in on a common ground and I sure as hell dont think Benson wants to open the books or leave/sell.

mutineer10 04-12-2005 02:41 AM

Blanco wants 40 mil.
Maybe they\'ll have a signing party with karaoke. Benson and Blanco can perform a duet of \"Money (That\'s what I want).\"

The best things in life are free,
But you can save it for the birds and bees.
I want money.
(That\'s ... what I want)

With special guest Mike McKenzie on backing vocals...

[Edited on 12/4/2005 by mutineer10]

4saintspirit 04-12-2005 06:27 AM

Blanco wants 40 mil.
I think Blanco is making a real effort to keep the Saints -- the deal does not sound so bad to me -- of course I wonder how much of a reduction in payments she is asking for. I am more optimistic now then I was 6 months ago though.

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