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Season ticket sales for Saints going 'awesome'

NEW ORLEANS -- Without the team running a single advertisement, renewals for New Orleans Saints season tickets are nearly four times what they were a year ago.

Between 20,000 and 25,000 ticket holders have made deposits for
2006, when the Saints are expected to return to New Orleans
following a vagabond season in San Antonio and Baton Rouge.

"Awesome," said Rita Benson LeBlanc, the team's executive vice
president of administration. "Our invoices have just gone out, so
we're really ahead of what would be a normal schedule."

Part of the surge has been the result of many ticket holders
having money remaining in their accounts because of the
cancellation of the New Orleans games last season, the team said.

Other interest, the team said, is likely being generated by the
offering of more than 20,000 seats at $35 or less. This year's
package consists of eight games instead of nine or 10 because home
exhibition games will be played at other venues around the state.

Team officials also pointed to the hiring of new coach Sean
Payton and the fact the Saints have the second pick in the NFL
draft.

The Saints' first home game at the renovated and repaired
Superdome is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 24, though the NFL has
said the date could be adjusted for national television. The
complete schedule will be announced in the coming weeks.

"This is one of the most exciting offseasons we've had in a while," Benson LeBlanc said.

The team's chief financial officer, Dennis Lauscha, said the
Saints revamped the ticket office immediately upon returning to the
city.

"We came back and ramped up immediately. They hit the ground
calling. And we've been in full force making phone calls," Lauscha
said. "That's 15 people making outbound calls all day, both on the
suite side and the ticket side. That has more to do with it than
anything."