NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints officially sold out
the entire regular-season home schedule in the Louisiana Superdome.
It is the first time in the history of the franchise, founded in
1967, that every available seat is owned by a season ticket holder.
One year after Hurricane Katrina displaced the Saints for the
entire regular season and placed the NFL's future in New Orleans in
doubt, Saints officials now are making plans for a waiting list.
"We're now competing on that basis with places like New York,
San Francisco ... Chicago and other major cities," owner Tom
Benson said Tuesday. "This is just tremendous. People in New York
and other places can't hardly believe what you all have done and
people in this whole area have done."
Benson spoke at the reopening of an NFL-sponsored youth center
near a now-closed public housing development. Several Saints
players had joined volunteers in gutting and cleaning the center
which had nearly 4 feet of water in it after Katrina. On Tuesday,
Benson's granddaughter, team executive Rita Benson LeBlanc,
presented the center with a check from the team for $100,000.
College Sports TV gave another $109,000 at the ribbon-cutting
Benson called on all Saints fans to wear black and gold on
Monday to show solidarity with New Orleans and the team.
Benson also asked area employers to let people out of work an
hour or two early on Monday so they could take part in festivities
around the Superdome whether they have tickets to the game or not.
"Let's look like a Mardi Gras," Benson said.