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News » Dome deal has Super possibilities

Dome deal has Super possibilities

Dome deal has Super possibilities
Jay Cicero was one of the happiest people in the room Thursday morning when Gov. Bobby Jindal and Saints owner Tom Benson announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding that would upgrade the Superdome and keep the NFL franchise here through 2025.

Cicero, the president of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, has nervously waited in the background as the two sides worked on the agreement, which still needs legislative approval.

Now that a deal is in place, though, he feels better about New Orleans' chances of landing the 2013 Super Bowl.

For months, Cicero and his staff have worked on the 2013 bid. But his work would have been for naught had state and the Saints not come to terms.

Instead, he'll be confident heading to the NFL owners meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on May 18-20. The league's owners are expected to pick among New Orleans, South Florida and Phoenix on May 19.

"This is a big relief," Cicero said. "We never knew whether or not we were going to be able to present with a deal in place or present pending legislative approval like it is right now, or whether we were going to go in the room and there was no deal in place. So to have this done is a great place to be. It just helps us have the confidence that the NFL can award this to us.

"The NFL would not consider us for a Super Bowl if there wasn't a long-term agreement between the Saints and the state of Louisiana. Although we've been in the bid process for the last six months, this is a very important piece of the puzzle. It allows us to put in a really impressive bid for the event and hopefully get it awarded."

Thursday's announcement could make New Orleans the favorite to host the game, which Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu estimated would have more than a $500 million economic impact on the area.

New Orleans hasn't hosted the title game since 2002, but Gov. Jindal said the NFL has shown strong interest in returning the Super Bowl here as long as the Saints had a long-term lease and the upgrades were made to the 34-year old stadium.

"I'm optimistic whether it's 2013 or in future years we will be seeing Super Bowls coming back to New Orleans, thanks in part to the upgrades and investments to the Superdome and because we have a long-term agreement in place," Jindal said. "But let's be clear, without a long-term agreement there was no chance they were going to look at New Orleans or come to New Orleans. They were very emphatic about that."

Saints owner Tom Benson agreed.

"What we are doing with these improvements -- the state is going to make the improvements with the deal that we made -- we are going to get many Super Bowls. And we are going to be in a lot of them too," he said.

Cicero certainly hopes the pair is correct.

If the Legislature approves the deal that would provide $85 million in renovations to the Superdome. Construction would begin in January of 2010. A second phase would take place in 2011, with neither forcing a stoppage of business at the Dome.

Both Saints and state officials said the renovations coupled with the $219 million in upgrades would virtually turn the Dome into a new stadium, while making it an attractive Super Bowl destination.

The upgrades for the Dome in the deal include:

-- Adding more than 3,100 lower bowl seats, moving the NFL capacity to 70,000.

-- Adding 16 luxury suites.

-- Widening the Plaza level concourses.

-- Adding more concessions areas.

-- Adding new sideline bunker club lounges that will be located beneath the plaza level.

"The Superdome is a 34-year-old stadium," said Doug Thornton, the regional vice president for SMG, that company that manages the Dome on behalf of the state. "With the improvements that we've already made and that we are going to make we will be competitive with any modern stadium. It's not a new stadium, but it will be completed renovated after this second phase. And it will be competitive with any modern stadium around."

BENSONS SIGN PURCHASE AGREEMENT: Judah Hertz, the California real estate investor who owns the Dominion Tower, the New Orleans Centre mall and the parking garage, said the Benson family signed a purchase agreement Thursday for the three properties. The sale is scheduled to close Aug. 1.

While Hertz deferred to the buyers to disclose the sale price, he said the Bensons put down a million-dollar, non-refundable deposit when they signed the purchase agreement.

. . . . . . .

Nakia Hogan can be reached nhogan@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3405. Kate Moran contributed to this report.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 1, 2009

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