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New Orleans Saints News

News » Saints deal may go to House next week

Saints deal may go to House next week

Saints deal may go to House next week
BATON ROUGE -- The contract between the state and the New Orleans Saints could be ready for debate in the House floor late next week, the same time the chamber takes up the state's $26.7 billion operating budget, House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, said Tuesday.

"There will be some good questions in committee and on the floor, but it should pass," Tucker told reporters after updating the House on the new Saints deal for more than an hour.

"There are those opposed to making an investment in the Dome with $85 million in surplus money," Tucker said. He said he thinks their concerns can be addressed in the next week.

Tucker said the House Ways and Means Committee will consider the surplus money for Superdome renovation as part of the cash section of House Bill 2, the state's capital construction budget, sponsored by Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge.

If the timetable holds and the operating and capital budget bills are debated on the House floor May 14 and 15, it would come close to meeting the deadline of the National Football League owners who will be meeting May 18-20 to pick a site for the 2013 Super Bowl.

Tucker told House members there are two major elements to the agreement to keep the Saints in New Orleans through 2025: using the state surplus from last year to finance substantial improvements to the Superdome, and winning approval of legislation that will let the state lease about 320,000 square feet of office space in the Dominion Tower, which will be purchased by Saints owner Tom Benson and renovated at his cost to house state agencies in the New Orleans area.

Tucker said the lease agreement for office space will be handled in a separate bill authorizing the state to lease the space from Benson. Benson will have to find tenants for the other 140,000 square feet in the tower, which has been closed since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Tucker said Benson will make about $12 million of improvements to the tower and charge the state about $24 a square foot for the office space, which is "probably on the high end of reasonable" rates for top-quality space downtown.

Tucker said if the state had to rent the space in Baton Rouge, the rates could be as much as $34 a square foot. Building a new office tower in New Orleans for state agencies, he said, would cost about $90 million.

The Superdome Commission and the Saints will also co-develop space in the New Orleans Centre as an entertainment district, Tucker said.

He said the deal will give a boost to the Central Business District, which has been struggling to rebound since Katrina.

. . . . . . .

Ed Anderson can be reached at eanderson@timespicayune.com or 225.342.5810.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 6, 2009

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Patrick Cobbs Name: Patrick Cobbs
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