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Saints staying put (1 Viewer)


New Orleans Saints Owner Tom Benson &NFL Commissioner Paul TagliabueWednesday, January 11, 2006Opening Statements:Mr. Benson: “Good afternoon everyone. It is certainly a beautiful day to be here withyou and it is very exciting. As you can see by the sign we have up here that the Saintscome marching in and that is what we are going to continue to do. We are lookingforward to a very exciting season. As you know we are in the process of trying to hire anew coach. We visited with some of the potential coaches already and we have a fewmore to go and we will all be very proud of our football team as time goes on here andwe are looking for a great season. I would now like to introduce the Commissioner PaulTagliabue and then we will talk some more.”Mr. Tagliabue: “Good afternoon. As you know we are here for I think our fourth visit inthe state and I think this is the most important by far because the Saints are back. Thefacility will be opening officially I guess a week from today. The General ManagerMickey Loomis told me some players have already been here working out. LeCharlesBentley was here today and I think this in many, many ways is a real turning point in therecovery and the rebuilding effort and the Saints contribution to all of this. We hadterrific meeting last night and again this morning with about three dozen representativesof the business community and some of the not for profit sector such as the AudubonInstitute, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, representatives of the Governor and of theSuperdome. We are working on a playbook and a game plan to come out of the box realstrong with great support as we seek to play all of the eight regular season home games inthe Superdome for the 2006 season. It has been a very hectic couple of days withmeetings and they will be even more hectic as we start following up and executing on thegame plan. As Mr. Benson said we will be glad to take any questions.”Q: How confident are you that the Saints will be able to play all of their games herenext year?Mr. Tagliabue: There were meeting this morning that Mr. Benson were in and I thinkthere is growing confidence. Certainly it was a point that we discussed in some depth thismorning and our assumption at the moment is that will be what we are doing.”Q: Can you see differences in the city each time you have come?Mr. Tagliabue: “Yes. My first two visits were in Baton Rouge and this is my secondvisit here in New Orleans, the last one was December 5th and I think it is palpable. Thedifference are very clear, certainly downtown it was extremely noticeable. We had dinnerwith the business group last night at Galatoirie's and we have been reading about otherrestaurants and thing opening up and Entergy coming back. In talking to some of the realestate people about the plans that Foot Locker has and other retailers have. I think it isvery clearly gaining momentum.”Q: Commissioner, When will the NFL and the Saints be ready to commit to NewOrleans past 2006?Mr. Tagliabue: “I think Mr. Benson has already committed beyond 2006. He has madeit clear that this is not just a one offer for one year season that this is a multi-year effort. Itis going to have to be a mutual partnership and that we are going to have to developbench marks and we have been discussing that with the business community. The way Ilook at it is simple. There is a period of engagement here to make sure everyone isworking together with a shared set of goals and then if those goals can be achieved youjust keep taking further and further steps. I think the commitment is unequivocal and theplayers I think will be coming back with a real positive attitude. We are striving to havesome of the Saints players with us in Detroit at the Super Bowl. I think so many of thoseplayers have done great things of the field this year giving them the opportunity to cometo the Super Bowl and speak on behalf of the Saints and the new effort that will belaunched with the new coach and coming back to the winning side of the ledger. Helpingto rebuild the community will be a really positive thing. We are going to leave no stoneunturned and we expect to back here in February and the ensuing months for moreevents.”Q: Can you talk about where the preseason games may be played?Mr. Tagliabue: Mr. Benson can speak on that. He has been exploring with his ownorganization the idea of playing two preseason games here in Louisiana perhapselsewhere in other parts of the state. Tom why don’t you speak to the preseason?Mr. Benson: “As you can see there the Commissioner and I are still talking about thepreseason. They set the schedule but I have given them some good ideas and I think someof them they really like. The big idea is that we play our preseason games some placehere in Louisiana and that is the key. We want to not only play all of your regular games,which we expect to play in the Superdome, but we will play our preseason games someplace in Louisiana. That is going to take some work on everybody’s part and for the NFLto get involved. I also asked him if can do that to put us on national television for thosegames so that it really shows what we are trying to do back here in Louisiana Maybe thatwill help us even bring some more people back and we can have more fans than we evenhave now and more businesses.”Q: Mr. Benson can you comment on the long term commitment to New Orleans?Mr. Benson: “I have committed forever as long as the community commits to me andthat is all we are asking. We are here. We are here and we are committed now lets goforward from there.”Q: Do you think the Saints schedule will be back loaded with home games or will itlook like a regular schedule?Mr. Tagliabue: “I think it will be more or less a regular schedule. If you look at NFLplaying schedules the first thing that becomes important is when is the bye week? We areworking on some alternative arrangements for the bye week and then if it is front endloaded or back end loaded is driven by a lot of things and it varies from team to team andit varies from year to year. I don’t think it will be anything dramatically out of theordinary. We will pay good attention to the availability of the Superdome and the mix ofthe divisional opponents and the non divisional opponents which will be the NFC Eastand AFC North.”Q: If the Superdome is not ready. Will you play games in Baton Rouge or SanAntonio?Mr. Tagliabue: “We are assuming that they are going to be in the Superdome.”Q: Mr. Benson what are your impressions of the progress the city has made so far tothis point?Mr. Tagliabue: “If you want to go back to September 2nd when we had to move into SanAntonio and today it is like night and day and I think that is great. Visiting with thebusiness community I think that they feel like they are coming back in all segments fromwhat we can see and what they are telling us. That is really excellent. I think that thefeeling is very good and ninety-nine percent of the business people feel like we are righton that threshold and we are going to keep going. The Saints are a big part of that.”Q: Why was there a four month period before there was a commitment to NewOrleans?Mr. Benson: “We were already set for 2005 and we couldn’t do anything about thatanymore and now we are getting ready for 2006. We are bringing in players and as youknow we need a new coach so there wasn’t anything we could do before now.”Mr. Tagliabue: “I don’t think it was a very long period of time. There were a heck-of-alotof other business who are still in the process of trying to reach conclusions on many ofthe same subjects that Mr. Benson has reached conclusions on. Including availability ofhousing for your employees and availability of services for their families so I don’texcept the idea that is was that long. To me it was a pretty tight timeline.”Q: Mr. Benson have you meet with Mickey Loomis and given him any guidelines onwhat you are looking for out of your new coach?Mr. Benson: “Mickey and I have a really good working relationship and I have a lot ofconfidence in him. He knows what we are looking for. We are looking for a leader thatcan bring us a winning football team and I think he is doing a great job with the processand certainly I am visiting with these people just to get a feel and he will make the finaldecision with some input from me.”Q: When do you think the Saints schedule will be announced?Mr. Tagliabue: “We had said that we would maybe announce something as early as thismonth. We have gone over several different alternatives with Tom and Rita and the restof the staff. There is not a lot of pressure there frankly because we have several differentalternatives and they could all work. We are looking at starting the season possiblyhaving an event in New Orleans that would be part of our kickoff event like last yearwhen we kicked off in New England and we had events in Detroit and Los Angeles. Thisyear we would expect to continue to tradition of that Thursday night game being in thecity of the Super Bowl champion, whoever that might be, and then maybe in conjunctionwith that have an event in Miami which is where next years Super Bowl would be and anevent in New Orleans to kick off the season, get people in the spirit of football and musicand then open with a regular season game in the Superdome. We are talking about a lot ofmoving parts but the parameters of the schedule we pretty much understand.”Mr. Benson: “Again, I am trying to get more national coverage for us by being onnational television.”Q: Mr. Benson has your perception of the situation changed since you have beenback in the city over the past few days?Mr. Benson: “I have lived here along time and I was looking at a magazine story I hadjust happened to find in this move and it showed when I bought the club and at that timeright on the front page there I was and I talked about it wasn’t that I was in love withfootball, it was the fact that I was in love with New Orleans Louisiana. That is the reasonI bought this team in 1985 and that is true today.”Q: Can you talk about the effort to possibly bringing a Super Bowl to New Orleans?Mr. Tagliabue: “The talks are continuing. It is part of the step at a time process andobviously we had some good conversations this morning with Steve Perry and others inthe business community about the hospitality industry and the plans for the conventionbusiness to be back where it was and the future of the hotel sector. All of those things arepart and parcel of any conversation you would have about the Super Bowl. “Q: What types of bench marks are you talking about?Mr. Tagliabue: “The way I look at this situation is sort of two fold. Necessity is themother of invention so there are needs in this area now that are extraordinary.Extraordinary times produce extraordinary challenges. Extraordinary challenges requireextraordinary responses so we are trying to see what it is that would represent areasonable level of support. How that can evolve over time. We know we are dealingwith a recovery and rebuilding process. We trying to get a sense of what is realistic andreasonable and as Mr. Benson has already suggested what our national business partnerswill do as part of that process at the league level and what local business will do. So thatis one point. The other point is things have to be done that you previously didn’t thinkabout. Previously we didn’t think about a kickoff concert in New Orleans as part of theopening primetime game, now we are thinking about it. We are thinking about a NewYears Eve game here. Our final game of your season next year us December 31, SundayDecember 31, so we are thinking about a new years eve game which is part of that newyears eve in New Orleans, which in term will be linked to the Sugar Bowl, three or fourdays later. We are thinking about things that we have not thought about before in terms ofthe New Orleans Saints and the National Football League. If we can make some of thoseideas become a reality then we are hitting the benchmarks. If some of those things proveto be impossible to do in year one, than we have a different set of things to consider.”Q: Is that part of your out of the box thinking that you mentioned in Baton Rouge afew weeks ago and are there more things we should expect to hear?Mr. Tagliabue: “I am sure there will be. There will be things that I will be surprised tothink about. I thought about two or three at four o’clock in the morning but I have to talkto Apple about them because they involve itunes and the Saints Go Marching In and AlHirt but that is for the next press conference.”Mr. Benson: “You guys need to know too that the Commissioner and I are talking nearlyevery day and going over all of these things which you are hearing part of it right nowand every option and everything that can work out.”


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