Saints to Stay in Louisiana Through 2010

Monday, March 26th 2007, 12:47 pm
By: News On 6

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ The New Orleans Saints have come to an agreement with state officials that will keep the team in Louisiana through the 2010 season.

Both sides agreed to toss out contract exit clauses that would have let the NFL team leave the state within the next four years.

``For the foreseeable future, Louisiana's team will keep marching to victory right here,'' Gov. Kathleen Blanco said at the Governor's Mansion on Monday, announcing the latest developments in ongoing negotiations to keep the Saints in New Orleans.

The contract had allowed the Saints to opt out of its current deal with the state by repaying about $70 million the state has provided in inducements to the team. But the Saints will drop that termination clause, and the state will eliminate its ability to opt out of the contract.

Both sides agreed to continue negotiating on a long-term agreement that could keep the Saints in New Orleans beyond the current contract.

Saints owner Tom Benson is ``committed over the next four years to get a long-term deal done here and to stay here forever,'' said team spokesman Greg Bensel.

The current $186.5 million contract with the Saints was negotiated in 2001 by former Gov. Mike Foster's administration and involves making annual payments to the team on top of other subsidies through 2010.

Those state payments will continue. Blanco said she didn't agree to give the Saints any more money _ but ongoing upgrades to the Saints' home stadium, the New Orleans Superdome, will continue.

Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage to the Superdome in 2005. The state repaired the domed stadium and invested another $185 million into improvements and upgrades long sought by Benson.

Benson was in Phoenix on Monday for the NFL owners' meeting and was not at the Governor's Mansion for the announcement of the contract changes.