LA Gov. Tests Waters on Stadium Funding

Sat September 18, 2004 - West Edition

BATON ROUGE, LA (AP) Gov. Blanco said she wants to explore how much money Louisiana’s NFL team is willing to contribute to a new stadium –– one of the ideas floated to keep the Saints in New Orleans past 2010.

Blanco said she wants to know if Saints owner Tom Benson would be willing to apply the state’s annual payments to the team to the construction costs for a new stadium and how much the team’s owner and the NFL would be willing to pay out of their own pockets.

“I just want to take a look at the whole picture,” the governor said. She has floated the idea of building the Saints a new stadium in tandem with the expansion of the New Orleans convention center.

The state is bound to a 10-year, $186-million agreement with the Saints that Blanco wants to renegotiate. The original deal was negotiated in 2001 by former Gov. Mike Foster, giving the Saints cash guarantees and additional concession revenues to keep the team in Louisiana.

But the state has had a hard time keeping up with its end of the payments because the local sources of revenue haven’t generated as much money as projected. The state had to borrow $7 million from a state economic development fund to fill in holes in its $15-million payment this year, and continued shortfalls are projected in upcoming years.

Benson has said he wants a new stadium and, in the meantime, the state should continue to honor the $186-million deal. Blanco has said she favors a renovation of the Superdome, but is willing to study the idea.

The price tag for a new stadium has been put at $450 million. Benson has said in the past that the team and the NFL could put up approximately $100 million.