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State looking for long-term solution

10/20/2004 - New Orleans Saints

NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints are working on a new
proposal to present to the governor, one that may back off demands
for a new stadium in favor of revamping the Superdome.

The Saints have been working on the proposal for some time, vice
president of administration Arnold Fielkow said. Asked if the
Saints were as adamant as ever about the need for a new stadium,
Fielkow refused to answer directly.

"I think it's important to let the presentation be made,"
Fielkow said Wednesday. "Because I think you have to give some
background to it."

The Legislature approved $187 million in concessions and
payments to the Saints in 2001 to keep them in the Superdome
through 2010. The deal was hammered out after team officials and
owner Tom Benson complained that the building was outdated and kept
them from being economically competitive.

The issue was reopened when the state was unable to make the
first payment to the Saints this summer and had to scramble to
raise about half of the $15 million due.

"It's not in the best interest of any of the parties from the
Saints' organization or the governor's office to annually have to
go through a process of whether an agreement will be honored,"
Fielkow said.

The new Saints proposal will lay out various options that he
hopes will lead to a long-term solution to the financial problems
and will ensure the team remains in New Orleans, Fielkow said.

"We want to ensure that the entire Saints community sees how
committed that we are to this state and how much we want to find a
long-term resolution to a very difficult and complex matter,"
Fielkow said.

As part of the preparation, the Saints asked a number of people
to make what Fielkow described as "short testimonials as to the
importance of the Saints in this community." Among those
videotaped was Dave Dixon, the leading force behind building the
Superdome.

Dixon has long been a proponent of renovating the Superdome.

"When we were designing, we did so with that in mind," Dixon
said. "I think the building could be updated and would still be
one of the finest stadiums in the world."

Gov. Kathleen Blanco visited New Orleans earlier in the month
and talked to city and tourism officials who said they did not want
a new stadium linked to a proposed expansion of the convention
center. Those same officials and lawmakers unanimously backed
renovating the Superdome.

The governor said she had not heard from the Saints, but said
New Orleans area legislators told her that the Saints are
"developing a proposal for consideration and they would like an
open-minded Legislature."

"If we redo the Dome, which I think is everyone's favorite
idea, we still need a source of revenue to come from that
particular region," Blanco said Wednesday. "And of course, a new
stadium would need additional revenue."