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Mayor hopefuls want to see Saints march in
Web Posted: 05/11/2005 12:00 AM CDT

Tom Orsborn
Express-News Staff Writer

The siren song of an NFL team relocating to San Antonio may be about to boost the volume of the sports expenditure debate in the runoff phase of the mayor's race.

A local attorney representing New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson said Tuesday that Benson is interested in relocating the franchise, possibly to San Antonio.

Both mayoral runoff candidates, Julian Castro and Phil Hardberger, responded enthusiastically to the prospect of negotiating a deal to move the Saints to the Alamo City.

"Damn right I would look into it," Hardberger said. "I would look into it in my first 30 days as mayor."

Said Castro: "It would be a fantastic opportunity for San Antonio, but we would have to make it real and profitable for the city. If it looks possible, it would definitely be part of my agenda."

The infusion of NFL speculation into the mayor's race comes on the heels of a public debate about Mayor Ed Garza's plan to offer more than $21 million in incentives to attract a Major League Soccer team to the city.

A majority of City Council members supported Garza's incentive proposal until last week. Just day's before last Saturday's election, several council members, including Castro, reversed themselves and announced their opposition, based upon limited community support.

The prospect of an NFL team's relocating to San Antonio could up the sports ante.

But any enthusiasm should be tempered by the fact the Saints and at least three other NFL teams have flirted with the city before gaining new stadiums or improved lease agreements in their own markets.

Hardberger said that, if elected, he'd seek the advice of local auto magnate B.J. "Red" McCombs, owner of the Minnesota Vikings, in working out a plan to land either the Saints or possibly pursue another NFL team with stadium issues.

"Red knows more about this than anyone in town," Hardberger said. "One thing we have talked about is how realistic are (the city's chances of getting an NFL team) and would (McCombs) be willing to go with me to talk to the NFL and see if they would help us."

McCombs, who has endorsed Hardberger, said mayor's office leadership would be vital in any effort to attract the NFL.

"You have to have leadership at the top being in favor of it," McCombs said. "You would still have resistance to it as we always have had. But without the leadership from the mayor's office, you wouldn't have a place to start."

McCombs, who has an agreement worked out for the sale of the Vikings, said Hardberger understands the significance the NFL would have for the city.

Asked if he thought the city could attract an NFL team with Hardberger as mayor and the Saints looking to relocate, McCombs said: "If all that were to come together and be available, that would be an interesting opportunity."

Stanley Rosenberg, Benson's attorney and long-time friend, said Benson has a strong interest in moving the Saints out of New Orleans. Benson, Rosenberg said, is considering invoking an exit clause in his lease with the Louisiana Superdome after the 2005 season.

Benson recently broke off negotiations for a longer lease agreement with state officials in Louisiana.

"Tom has a house in San Antonio, a ranch in San Antonio and business interests in San Antonio," Rosenberg said. "He likes San Antonio very much."

Rosenberg said he's received several offers from parties interested in either buying the Saints or in inducing Benson to move the team to another city. One offer was for more than $1 billion, Rosenberg said.

"Tom has many alternatives when it comes to the Saints and he has received many different offers, including one from Los Angeles," Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg acknowledged he met last week with New Mexico officials representing the state's governor, Bill Richardson, about the possibility of the Saints moving to Albuquerque.

"They (New Mexico officials) have an interest, a real interest, in having a National Football League team," Rosenberg said. He added that Richardson's representatives already have requested a follow-up meeting.

Benson declined to comment about a possible move to San Antonio, other than to say through a spokesman that he "has not spoken to anyone there, political or not, about the Saints."

Before any team seriously considers relocating to San Antonio, several hurdles would have to be overcome. The biggest obstacle would be bringing the Alamodome up to NFL standards, a project likely to cost close to $200 million.

According to a study commissioned by the city in 2001, the Alamodome is smaller by more than 200,000 square feet than 10 recently built NFL stadiums. It has far fewer luxury suites and premium club seats than other new NFL venues.

NFL insiders say the dome would need at least 120 to 140 suites and at least 10,500 club seats to generate enough revenue to lure a team.

The Alamodome has 38 finished suites, with space to build an additional 28, and more than 6,000 club/suite seats, with the ability to add 1,000 more.

The study estimated it could take nearly $140 million to overhaul the dome, a price tag that doesn't include the cost for construction of a training facility.

San Antonio also would face considerable competition from Los Angeles, a market with a population of more than 15 million, for any relocating team. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has said he wants a team in Los Angeles by 2008 or 2009.

A message left with the NFL requesting comment wasn't immediately returned.

According to the exit clause, the Saints can leave Louisiana after the 2005 season by paying an $81 million penalty. If the Saints decide not to exercise the option within 90 days after the season finale, the current deal would run through 2010.

Benson ended negotiations with the state after he received a proposal that called for the Saints to contribute $40 million to a $174 million renovation of the Superdome.

The state said the proposal would increase the team's revenue streams. But the Saints say it also would cut the amount of guaranteed income the team would receive from the state after the renovations are finished.

League rules require 24 of 32 NFL owners approve any proposed relocation.
 

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san antonio??????????????hello what about la
 

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Well, this would not really require a name change, since SA is full of Catholics, esp with the large Hispanic population, so the name would make sense.
 

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Ill tell you Louisville; Oklahoma City; Birmingham; Norfolk; or Las Vegas deserve it way before Albuquerque.. (Not to bash Albuquerque, but these cities have no Major League teams and their Regional population are anywhere from 1,700,000-3,000,000 with the Spreaded out populations that would go with the team being:

Louisville- 2,575,000 approx.. including Owensboro-Lexington-Bowling Green-Evansville
Oklahoma City- 2,345,000 approx.. including Tulsa-Fort Smith,AR
Birmingham- 1,960,000 approx.. including Huntsville-Hoover,AL-Tuscaloosa,AL
Norfolk- 2,885,000 approx.. including Richmond-Virginia Beach
Las Vegas- 1,870,000 approx.. including Laughlin

ALBUQERQUE- 945,000 approx.. including Santa Fe

Of course San Antonio would be a good choice for the team though.. Austin could also be a choice..

" This was also my own personal opinion, not to disregard Albuqerque because I'm sure they could probably support the team I just believe that there are other cities that would deserve it more"
 

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I doubt they'll go to San Antonio. The Alamodome is worse than the Superdome. Unfortunately for San Antonio and other cities, I seriously think that Tom Benson is using them as leverage to get what he wants from the State of Louisiana. Benson is also a native New Orleanian who truly does love New Orleans. With that said...stranger things have happened in this world. Maybe the Saints will leave....
 

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skysdalimit said:
I would think they would choose LA over anywhere else.
I would think they would choose to stay in New Orleans over going anywhere. They've been here 38 years.
 

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The Saints are not going anywhere. The statement by Benson's attorney is nothing more that the most obvious form of posturing. He's just not used to the fact that we have a governor who is not going to simply ascede to his every wish.
 

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JPKneworleans said:
The Saints are not going anywhere. The statement by Benson's attorney is nothing more that the most obvious form of posturing. He's just not used to the fact that we have a governor who is not going to simply ascede to his every wish.
Right.

Benson has been doing this stuff for ten years.
 

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Megalomaniac
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Birmingham. or LA. or stay put.

-
 

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In SA, I'm sure a bond vote for 200 million for the Dome's renovation would pass with flying colors if it meant an NFL.

Hell, 400 dollar school bonds get voted yes like crazy in San Antonio.

Benson lives in San Antonio, has a few banks he owns here. I'm sure he and Red McCombs have talked more than a few times about moving a damn NFL team here.

I think it all depends on who is elected Mayor in the run off elections June 7. If Hardberger is made Mayor I see this as 60% for sure happening.

If the NFL really wants LA to have a team, give them the Viks or Jets. New York doesn't need two teams.
 

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dromulus said:
What other teams has San Antonio been eyeing?
The Vikings have been mentioned several times, although not seriously, and the Cardinals expressed lots of intrest before a Phoenix suburb built them a new stadium (for a city that only fills half a stadium for home games, they would have been much better off here). It seems like the only major obsticle in all this is that the Alamodome isn't NFL ready. San Antonians would be more than happy give whatever was neccessary to bring the 'dome up to league standards, this wouldn't be an issue. What would be an issue is Jerry Jones and Bob McNair wouldn't be too happy to see a market with 2,500,000+ (including Austin) changing loyalty for our own team. I also realize that Benson could be using Texas as leverage to get whatever revenues he wants from New Orleans but considering that he made millions here, and lives here doesn't make this situation something that Louisiana can just shrug off. If any city is desperate for a team, San Antonio tops the list.
 

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You also have to include teh Rio Grande Valley, Corpus Christi, and parts of Mexico into the market for a SA NFL team.

That's 8 million plus at least with all those areas.
 

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The old Vikings owner is from San Antonio, but I think he sold it about 4 months ago to the first black man to own an NFL Team. He should have brought it to San Antonio while he owned it. Also a Soccer team is expected to come to San Antonio.
 

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Sigur Ros said:
If the NFL really wants LA to have a team, give them the Viks or Jets. New York doesn't need two teams.
The NFL has stated several times that it would not support an owner's wish to move the Vikings. Besides, it wouldn't make any sense to move a team from the 14th or 15th largest market, especially knowing the NFL would want another team back in the same market two years later.
 
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