1. #1
    Illusion's Avatar Become A Pro!
    Join Date: 08-09-05
    Posts: 25,166

    NFL expects Superdome to host regular-season games

    NEW ORLEANS -- NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said during a visit to New Orleans on Wednesday that he expects the Louisiana Superdome to host all of the Saints' regular-season home games next season.

    Tagliabue also sought to reassure the community that the NFL is not simply moving the Saints back to New Orleans for a single season as a public relations move meant to portray the league as sympathetic to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

    The commissioner said it was clear to him that Saints owner Tom Benson plans to remain in New Orleans beyond 2006. He added that the NFL was even beginning discussions with local leaders about when New Orleans might be ready to host its next Super Bowl, which would be the city's 10th.

    "Mr. Benson already has committed beyond 2006. He's made it clear this is not just for one season. It's a multiyear effort," Tagliabue said as Benson stood alongside him. "The commitment is unequivocal."

    The Superdome is not expected to be ready to host football until mid-September, but Benson said he is intent on playing both of the Saints' home preseason games at other venues in Louisiana.

    Tagliabue, making his fourth visit to the state since Hurricane Katrina, called the progress he has seen in the metro area "palpable."

    "This is in many ways a real turning point in the recovery and the rebuilding effort and the Saints' contribution to all that," said Tagliabue, who met with Convention & Visitor's Bureau officials and dined with business leaders at the French Quarter landmark Galatoire's on Tuesday night. "We've been reading about other restaurants, other things opening up, energy coming back, and talking to other real estate people. ... It's very clear we're gaining momentum."

    Those were encouraging words for a community that had been all but convinced it was about to lose its affiliation with the NFL since Katrina struck.

    Local anxiety over the team's future was present even before Katrina, when Benson started criticizing New Orleans for being a small market and calling the Superdome an outdated NFL facility. Shortly after the storm forced the team to temporarily relocate to San Antonio, leaders there said they were working with Benson to keep the team in Texas permanently. Benson then fired an executive who favored returning to Louisiana and briefly sought to cancel the lease at his training headquarters in suburban New Orleans, which was used by federal agencies as a relief base.

    Benson never said publicly that he wanted to move the team permanently out of New Orleans, saying only that the storm damage to the city made his team's future there uncertain. He remained noncommittal for about four months until he returned shortly before New Year's Eve to announce the team was coming back to its headquarters this month. Some players have already returned to area homes and have begun working out. The Saints have also conducted interviews with prospective new coaches in New Orleans.

    Many local leaders have said Benson should have committed to New Orleans much sooner, but Tagliabue defended the Saints owner.

    "There are a heck of a lot of other businesses still in the process of trying to reach conclusions on many of the same subjects that [Benson] has reached conclusions on, including availability of housing for employees and availability of services for their families, so I don't accept the idea it was very long," Tagliabue said. "To me it was a tight timeline."

    Benson said he is committed to New Orleans "forever, as long as the community commits to me."

    "I've lived here a long time," Benson continued, alluding to threats of the Saints moving out of Louisiana before he bought the team two decades ago. "When I bought the club ... it wasn't that I was in love with football. It was the fact that I was in love with New Orleans, Louisiana. [That was] the reason I bought this team in 1985 and that's true today."

    Meanwhile, the NFL is working on plans to further promote the league's involvement in the rebuilding of New Orleans next season. Ideas include a kickoff concert in New Orleans leading up to the prime-time season-opening game at the home of this season's eventual Super Bowl champion. The NFL is also looking at a New Year's Eve Saints home game on the last weekend of the regular season.

    Benson said he is urging Tagliabue to work on putting as many Saints home games as possible, including preseason games, on national television as a way to promote the progress of the south Louisiana's recovery.

    "That really shows what we're trying to do back here in Louisiana," Benson said. "And maybe that will help us bring some more people back so we can have more fans than we have now and more businesses."

  2. #2
    Illusion's Avatar Become A Pro!
    Join Date: 08-09-05
    Posts: 25,166

    There won't be that many people even watching these games. They need to move this team.