Nathan Stubbs

State reaches new agreement with Saints

by Nathan Stubbs

The Jindal administration has come to terms with New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson in an agreement that would keep the team playing in an improved Louisiana Superdome through 2025. Jindal held a 10 a.m. press conference this morning to make the announcement. State lawmakers will still have to approve the lease agreement.

The deal cuts the often maligned direct subsidies the state annually pays to the Saints. The state is currently paying the Saints $23.5 million a year; under the new agreement, those payments would be capped at $6 million a year. In exchange, the state has agreed to fund $85 million in improvements to the Superdome, as well as lease office space from Benson at the former New Orleans Centre mall next to the dome. Benson is in the process of buying the building. The agreement obligates the state to pay Benson more than $6 million a year to rent office space, a parking garage and the mall over the next 20 years. Then the deal gets more complex. According to Jindal’s press release:

“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.”

This arrangement apparently has the Saints giving back a combined $10.5 million, out of the three remaining $23.5 million state payments, so the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District can use that money for redevelopment projects in the abandoned mall. Once the projects are finished, the LSED will keep the revenues generated by events using that space. Details on how the state will use, and possibly sublease, that space remain a little fuzzy at this point. Nevertheless, the deal is being touted as a win-win by both the Saints and the state. In his press release, Jindal says:

“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.”