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Saints, State might resume huddle

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Saints, state might resume huddle Sides eager to strike deal, official says Thursday, August 11, 2005 By Ed Anderson-Times Picayune BATON ROUGE -- Gov. Kathleen Blanco's office said Wednesday that New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson wants to resume negotiations ...

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Old 08-11-2005, 06:35 AM   #1
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Saints, State might resume huddle

Saints, state might resume huddle

Sides eager to strike deal, official says

Thursday, August 11, 2005
By Ed Anderson-Times Picayune

BATON ROUGE -- Gov. Kathleen Blanco's office said Wednesday that New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson wants to resume negotiations with the state to keep the National Football League team in the city, possibly by the end of the summer.

On Wednesday night, Saints Executive Vice President for Administration Arnold Fielkow said he had no comment about any upcoming meetings between the two sides.

Fielkow said Blanco and Benson had an "amicable" meeting a few weeks ago and discussed issues regarding the future of the Saints in the state.

"At the appropriate time, we look forward to having an opportunity to continue to discuss ways to ensure the Saints receive a long-term agreement," Fielkow said.

Blanco spokeswoman Denise Bottcher said the two sides are looking at resuming negotiations in August or September. .

When Benson broke off talks with the state April 27, he said he wouldn't come back to the bargaining table until the end of the Saints' 2005 season.

Benson's April letter to Blanco calling off talks said that the "energies of our organization will be focused on making this season a special one for all of our fans. . . . At the conclusion of the Saints season, we once again look forward to continuing our dialogue with the state."

Now, Bottcher said, both sides want to get a deal in place as soon as possible.

Bottcher said Benson requested and received a June 17 meeting with Blanco at Saints headquarters in Metairie.

"It was a very friendly meeting," Bottcher said. "Mr. Benson expressed a strong desire to stay in New Orleans, and the governor expressed a strong desire to make that affordable for the state. . . . It is mutually beneficial to get the talks back on track."

Fielkow confirmed the June meeting.

"They had an opportunity to discuss some issues relative to the long-term success of the Saints. I believe that that's a great step for the two principles, to get together and to continue to develop their personal relationship," he said.

Bottcher said she could not say what may have changed Benson's timetable on re-opening talks, and she referred inquiries to Benson and Fielkow.

Under the existing agreement, the Saints can cancel the contract and move from New Orleans after this football season, but Benson would have to pay the state about $81 million in penalties. The state can opt out of the contract in 2008 without paying penalties.

The contract calls for the state to pay the team $186.5 million from 2002 through 2011.

Tim Coulon, the chairman of the Superdome Commission and the state's point man in past talks with Benson, said he would like the negotiations to resume "sooner rather than later. . . . It is my impression it (a new round of talks) will be open-ended, but I do not see extensive negotiations. God knows we have enough information."

He said that when new talks begin, the two sides probably will use the terms of the most recent state proposal, which was rejected by Benson, as a "starting-off point" to formulate a new deal.

When the talks broke off in April, the state pledged to make $174 million in improvements to the Superdome, including building more expensive box suites and pricey sideline seats. The state asked Benson to put up $40 million of the renovation costs, but Superdome officials said the team offered to pay only $17.5 million.

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Old 08-11-2005, 08:48 AM   #2
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RE: Saints, State might resume huddle

Benson must be reading the preseason analysts who are predicting the Saints to be 3rd or 4th in the division. After promising to win the Super Bowl and then calling out fans (and seeing the subsequent 20,000 seat drop in season ticket sales), he must be worried that his plan to try to leverage a good season might not be so wise. While I think the Saints are poised for their best season in 5 years, it's not like we (and Benson) haven't been there before. Maybe he just woke up and realized what he did - rested the future financial stability of his franchise on Jim Haslett's shoulders. Not a good plan.

You also have to wonder if someone in the league office finally told Benson that L.A. is out for the Saints. Or maybe he wants to retire and pass the team on to Rita, but doesn't feel that he can do that until there is a new deal in place. Or maybe he just realized that he made some huge tactic errors in the previous public negotiations, but could show weakness and lose leverage by backing down, so now he's quietly "meeting" with the state.

This seems strange, but I'm glad it's happening.

\"Excuses, excuses, excuses. That’s all anyone ever makes for the New Orleans Saints’ organization.\" - Eric Narcisse

\"Being a Saints fan is almost like being addicted to crack,\"
he said.[i]\"You know you should stop, but you just can\'t.\"
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Old 08-11-2005, 09:44 AM   #3
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I agree mostly with WhoDat. I think its a combination of things -- I also would add another reason -- I think he realizes what a good deal he really has in New Orleans and is willing to back down on some of his demands

In any case as long as this is not just a way to increase season tickets by pulling the wool over our eyes I cannot see a downside of resuming talks.
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