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New Orleans Saints News

News » John DeShazier

John DeShazier

John DeShazier
There remains some selling to be done -- literally to a state legislature that ultimately must sign off on a deal and can posture and feign hives at the sound of " Saints ." And figuratively to a citizenship that can be prickly when a sports franchise and the words "lease agreement" appear in the same sentence.

But this ought to be bought because, really, it appears to be a good deal for the state and for the franchise.

Minimize that the proposed extension will assure the Saints will be in New Orleans through 2025. Even downplay that approval of the deal should all but guarantee that New Orleans will be the site of future Super Bowls, perhaps including the 2013 game.

Alone, those might make the deal palatable. But when you add in the deal is structured so the state's financial obligation to the Saints considerably is lessened, down from the current $23.5 million the state owes this year under terms of the current agreement, to no more than $6 million per year under the proposed agreement, then it becomes that much more attractive.

And that $6 million could shrink, depending on whether the team can increase its revenue.

The state will pay at least $85 million in Superdome improvements, including added seating and suites, to help provide an avenue for the increase. And Saints owner Tom Benson will buy New Orleans Centre and Dominion Tower, and will lease to the state 320,000 square feet at Dominion Tower for state agencies.

But in the case of the former, the Superdome essentially becomes a new facility when the previous, post-Katrina improvements are factored in. And in the case of the latter, if Benson is willing to spend money to make money -- and suitors haven't lined up to buy those facilities -- then it's kind of hard to argue against that.

The attractive part of the equation is that the team mainly will assume its own financial risk.

"The bottom line is, we don't like getting a check," said Dennis Lauscha, the Saints' senior vice president/chief financial officer. "We don't like getting a check. We're not immune to the criticism. We hear it; we don't like it. We want to generate and earn what we can. The thing that put us over the top is having the improvements. Having the improvements gives us a chance to make the $12 million, to get us closer to the $23 (million). So we're willing to take that risk."

Now, the intent here isn't to insult you. Obviously, if the franchise is willing to take the risk, thorough research probably says it's a risk worth taking.

"If we don't continue selling out (with the additional seating and suites), then the Saints come under a tremendous burden," Benson said. "The real burden is being pushed from the state to us. We feel very comfortable with that."

They feel comfortable because Saints fans historically have shown they love and support their team whether it wins or loses. If the team takes advantage of its current window of opportunity, and strings together a few winning seasons and playoff victories, the "new" Superdome will be as filled to capacity as was the old one.

That doesn't diminish the fact that the state gets to write a much smaller subsidy check than in previous years. Maybe, in some years, it won't have to write a check at all.

"We recognized that the team has needs as a small-market club, that demands are placed on them may not be placed (on teams) in other cities," said Doug Thornton, regional vice president of SMG, the company that manages the Superdome. "The question was, 'How do we structure a deal that has a shared risk profile?'

"(Improving the Superdome) gives the team revenue potential that they did not currently have, which allows us to shift that risk profile."

Alone, the shift of risk to and assumption of responsibility by the Saints makes the deal attractive.

Sure, the proposed lease extension won't be universally loved, because it's virtually impossible for a Saints deal to be universally loved. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be liked by enough of the right people to get it accepted.

. . . . . . .

John DeShazier can be reached at jdeshazier@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3410.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 30, 2009

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Ricky Williams Name: Ricky Williams
Position: RB
Age: 31
Experience: 7 years
College: Texas
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