Benson says he has no San Antonio plan
NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson said he hasn't made any plans to move the NFL team to San Antonio.
Benson's statement Friday came two days after New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said talk of moving the Saints in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was a shameful act of disrespect to fans who supported the franchise for nearly four decades.
But Benson said he wanted to "make it clear that no decisions have been made regarding our future plans," and added that none would be made until the 2005 season is over.
"There are many factors that will affect the future location of our team," Benson said. "That is also true of many other New Orleans-based companies that are faced with deciding their future homes."
On Oct. 30, the Saints will play the first of four scheduled home games in Louisiana -- all in LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge -- because of damage to the Louisiana Superdome.
Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco will be there and said she intends to meet with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who also plans to attend.
"The NFL recognizes the loyalty to the Saints shown by the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans," Blanco said. "NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue personally told me that when I spoke to him a few days ago and he is supportive of the New Orleans recovery. ... We are ready to meet with Saints representatives and the NFL leadership to help make their transition back to New Orleans certain."
Superdome officials said the stadium should be mostly cleaned up and ready for the Saints to play at least some of their games there in 2006.
Meanwhile, San Antonio officials said they were working with Benson to keep the team in Texas. The Saints have played two games in San Antonio and have another there against Detroit on Dec. 24.
Ticket sales for the Baton Rouge games surged briefly when the Saints launched a marketing campaign there nearly two weeks ago. But this week, Benson fired Arnold Fielkow, a top business executive who supported the franchise's return to Louisiana. Soon after, another top executive left.
Those departures lent credence to comments by San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger that Benson wanted to meet with him to discuss relocating the team to Texas beyond this season.
Then, Benson's lawyer informed the state of Louisiana that the Saints wanted out of their lease on team headquarters in suburban New Orleans.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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