Jindal, Benson agree to long-term Saints deal

New Orleans Saints Owner Tom Benson and Governor Bobby Jindal on Thursday announced a new partnership that will continue the club’s commitment to the state through 2025 and also create a new Sports Development District that includes the Benson family purchasing and redeveloping the New Orleans Centre and Dominion Tower.

The two properties have sat largely dormant and in disrepair since Hurricane Katrina, and this agreement will revitalize the area around the stadium.

Jindal said that compared to the current agreement with the Saints, the terms of the new deal will save the state more than $280 million over the next 17 years – and no new taxes will be required to fund any aspect of the new agreement.

According to a recent UNO study, the Saints generate $22.1 million annually in direct state revenue, which would add up to nearly $400 million over the life of this extension.

Jindal said, “This is a great day for Saints fans and the whole state of Louisiana. Throughout this process, I said we would make sure that this deal makes sense for Louisiana taxpayers – and by executing this agreement we will save the state hundreds of millions of dollars, while making what will be an incredibly successful investment for our state.

“This new partnership results in a long-term lease agreement with the Saints – plus an innovative investment that will dramatically revitalize the Superdome area. By modernizing the Superdome, we will enable the site to be more competitive with venues around the country. At the same time, we have the opportunity to revitalize an area of downtown New Orleans that has remained dormant for four years – and generate further economic development in the region.”

Benson said, “It’s a bold project in an area in need of investment and renewal, and this partnership will take a part of our city that has not bounced back and make it a place the residents of New Orleans and all of Louisiana can be proud of again. The Superdome is a world-class facility, and it’s going to be enhanced. We are very happy with everything planned, and we want the buildings that surround the stadium to be on the same level.”

Subject to legislative approval, the new lease is effective August 1, 2009. Inducements will be reduced in the Fiscal Year 2010 and 2011 based on the state’s participation in the Sports Development District – a far-reaching, innovative project that will include rejuvenating the downtown district around the Louisiana Superdome.

Current inducements will remain in place over the next two seasons, but are reduced by state and LSED lease rentals. The state’s fixed inducement payments to the Saints will be eliminated after 2011 and the team will be eligible to receive up to $6 million a year, based upon their financial performance.

As part of the agreement, the Benson family will purchase the Dominion Tower and enter into a 20-year commercial office lease agreement with the state. The Saints and the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED) will join into a co-development agreement to redevelop the New Orleans Centre Mall, which has been empty and in poor condition since 2005.

The two entities will create a Sports Development District, which will feature an interactive entertainment venue, commercial office space, entertainment and parking.

Additionally, as part of the deal, a 70,000 square foot festival plaza outside the mall will be available to 2.3 million annual visitors at the Superdome on game day, which will help generate further sales for local businesses and revenues for state and local government.

The economic impact of the LSED is projected to reach over $1.5 billion, with $71.6 million generated in state revenue.

The Superdome will be modernized, and state agencies will be consolidated at the Dominion Tower into a Class A building – 320,000 square feet for official use – at a lesser cost than new construction.

Additionally, r Jindal said he will work with the legislature to use $85 million in 2007-2008 fiscal year surplus dollars to dramatically upgrade the Louisiana Superdome during the 2010 and 2011 off-seasons. The upgrades will not cause any interruptions to the football schedule.

The Superdome enhancements will include a legion of amenities all aimed at improving the fan experience, including wider plaza level concourses, additional concession stands, additional restrooms, improved ADA seating, new premium club lounges and 3,100 new plaza level seats. On the 300-level, 16 new luxury boxes will also be built.

These upgrades will allow the Superdome to remain competitive with the new multi-use stadiums that have been built throughout the country, and benefit all events at the Superdome – including the Sugar Bowl, the BCS Championship and The Essence Festival. Modernizing the stadium will also be key in attracting signature events such as future Super Bowls and NCAA Final Fours. These enhancements were a key factor in the 2013 Super Bowl bid. The Saints will assume a greater responsibility for producing incremental stadium revenues with the enhancements made to the Superdome.

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