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tiggerpolice 05-30-2005 07:52 PM

NFL's Saints may drill in Jackson
NFL's Saints may drill in Jackson
By Laura Hipp

Fans of the New Orleans Saints may not need to drive too far to see their team practice.

The Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium Commission will consider a contract with the NFL team by Wednesday, said Watt Whatley, executive director. Officials hope the event leads to a return of exhibition games in the future.

The NFL franchise may play a scrimmage Aug. 6 in Jackson.

"I think it will be awesome just from the standpoint of getting New Orleans in the area," Whatley said. "They want to try to get more involvement out of this area."

For months, the commission has worked to bring the team to the capital city. Bringing All-Pro running back Deuce McAllister to play in front of thousands of fellow Mississippians sweetens the deal.

"It'd be great for Mississippi and Jackson," House Appropriations Chairman Johnny Stringer, D-Montrose, said.

Saints officials and McAllister could not be reached for comment.

Stadium officials and the governor's staff have spoken with Stringer and Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, about securing $150,000 for new lockers and training tables.

The equipment is needed before Jackson State University's football season starts this fall. Though no funds have been found, officials are certain lockers will be in place.

"We'd do it for Jackson State and this game," Stringer said.

An estimated 20,000 to 25,000 could attend the scrimmage.

"Any pro football team, I'd go to," said Garland Bridges, 19, of Brandon. He travels a few times in the fall to see the Saints play.

State officials hope a successful scrimmage will bring an exhibition game to Jackson, which last had one in the mid-1990s.

"We really need to show the Saints we'd be prepared to host an exhibition game," said Charlie Williams, chief of staff for Gov. Haley Barbour.

The Saints would arrive in the Jackson area on Aug. 5, and players and coaches would host clinics for area school children, Williams said.

Tickets would be in the "$10 range," and there would be a deal for families, he said. Those details have not been approved.

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