Blanco says Superdome renovation more likely

Updated: October 21, 2004, 12:39 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- The idea of building a new stadium for the New Orleans Saints "looks like it's on its last breath" as public sentiment shifts toward renovating the Superdome for the NFL team, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Thursday.

During an impromptu news conference following a speech to the Delta Regional Authority, Blanco said she did not have details on a proposal being worked on by the Saints involving state support.

The Saints would not reveal details of the plan, but called a news conference for next week.

"I'm not sure what their proposal is, but I'm anxious to take a look at it and see how far apart or how close together we might be in terms of concepts," Blanco said.

Blanco, who favors renovating the Superdome, said she was encouraged by the indications that the Saints might be backing off a demand for a new stadium.

"I think it's a very good sign," she said. "I think reality is creeping in."

Blanco has ordered a study of the possibility of combining an expansion of New Orleans' giant convention center with a new football stadium. The governor said that analysis has not been completed.

Asked if the new stadium proposal was dead, Blanco said: "I'm sensing that the momentum is moving in this community away from a new stadium and towards renovation. While I can't declare it dead, it looks like it's on its last breath, I guess."

Amid threats by owner Tom Benson to move the team, the Legislature approved $187 million in concessions and payment to the Saints in 2001 to keep them in the Superdome through 2010. The issue was reopened when the state had to borrow $7 million from a state economic development fund to fill in holes in its $15 million payment this year.

Blanco said any stadium plan involving the Saints would need a regional funding source since "the state itself does not have the resources to do this."

"I think that since there's regional benefit here in the New Orleans area, if they consider this an important objective, there should be a willingness to help us pay for it," Blanco said.

Earlier this month, city and tourism officials told the governor they did not want a new stadium linked to the convention center expansion. Those officials told Blanco they back renovating the Superdome.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press