Sources: Saints Unlikely to Return to New Orleans
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that the NFL’s New Orleans Saints have likely played their last game in the Crescent City.
Saints owner Tom Benson declared this week that nothing will be decided on the franchise’s future until after the season. But ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that, based on information from key league sources, the team has probably played its last game in New Orleans. According to Mortensen, San Antonio is a likely home for 2006 and Los Angeles is the preferred destination beyond that. The NFL could still include New Orleans as a Super Bowl site when the city is reconstructed, and expansion might even be a possibility, but that’s 10 to 15 years away.
If the Saints relocate to San Antonio or elsewhere, New Orleans has only a slim chance of ever seeing another NFL team, according to a major sports consultant. Marc Ganis of SportsCorp Ltd. in Chicago served as a consultant to Cleveland in 1996 when that city’s NFL team moved to Baltimore and the NFL guaranteed Cleveland a new team and allowed the city to keep the Browns’ logos, colors and nickname.
Earlier this week, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin said he wanted the “Cleveland deal” if the team relocates. Gov. Kathleen Blanco said she supported Nagin on such a plan. But Ganis questioned the strategy. “If I were advising Mayor Nagin, I would have given him the same advice that someone should have given the mayors of Baltimore and Houston,” Ganis said. “Hold on to what you have. Do everything you have to hold on to what you’ve got, because there’s no certainty to what will come next or what will come at all.” Houston lost the Oilers to Tennessee and later got the expansion Texans.
Ganis said New Orleans is already viewed as a small market struggling to remain financially competitive — and most NFL owners oppose expanding beyond the present 32 teams.
Ganis is right. While Benson will be villified, especially given the public sympathy New Orleans has after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the city is a poor home for an NFL franchise. The Super Dome, while a marvel when new, was a delapidated, obsolescent stadium even before the storm damage and it is a very small market, indeed–especially considering that it is so close to the much more popular Dallas Cowboys.
Teams decry owners who try to hold them up for new stadium deals but history shows that they almost always go begging after a new team and wind up spending much more money than it would have taken to keep their old one. Baltimore lost the Colts (to Indianapolis) and wound up having to lure the Browns/Ravens. Cleveland lost the Browns and had to wait several years and build a stadium, anyway, to lure the Browns Deux. The Oilers moved to Nashville and it was several years and a new stadium later before Houston could attract the Texans expansion team. For more, see my December 2004 TCS piece, “Applying Free Market Logic to an Unfree Market.”
Correction: The original erroneously read “Indianapolis lost the Colts” when, in fact, they gained them.