Benson says he has no San Antonio plan

10/21/2005 - New Orleans Saints

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

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.