The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

NFL in San Antonio

As Matty G. writes, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson is pressing the NFL to make the Alamodome their temporary home stadium for the 2005 season:

A source close to Saints owner Tom Benson also confirmed Benson has a strong interest in relocating his team to San Antonio, a move that would give the Alamo City its second major professional sports team.

Despite assertions by team general manager Mickey Loomis that the Saints' commitment to New Orleans is "stronger than ever," sources say Benson will inform NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue in New York that the Alamodome is the most attractive option in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

The NFL, however, has its doubts about San Antonio's ability to draw fans and corporate sponsors, sources said.

Some are pushing to make Baton Rouge and LSU's stadium the Saint's home field in 2005. But that would be extremely tough to do as Baton Rouge is right in the thick of the staging efforts for Katrina. The only other viable option would be to have the Saints play every, single game on the road- something that as a sports fan I believe to be absolutely insane.

But the knock on San Antonio right now is the knock that the NFL has had on San Antonio for close to two decades now. Can we sell out games and can we get corporate sponsorship? I, for one, have never understood this argument. Bexar County has over 1.3 million people, there are over 1 million Texans in the Rio Grande Valley, which is a much closer drive to SA than to Houston or Dallas. This doesn't include any one living in the Hill Country, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, Laredo, or Austin. To say that we can't sell, in conjunction with Saints fans and corporate sponsorship, 65,000 tickets seven times this fall and winter is absurd.

Having said that, after hearing rumors of the Saints leaving New Orleans for San Antonio this spring, I'd say there is zero chance of this ever happening now. Tom Benson would be a pariah nearly everywhere in the country if he did this now. Think about what Art Modell went through when he moved the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore, only infinitely worse and on a national scale.

Update, 7:38 pm: Tom Benson announces he would like to play home games in Baton Rouge, "to the extent circumstances allow." Don't know what that means, guess we'll find out in the coming days.

Update, 7:45 pm: Adding another wrinkle to the story, CNN is reporting that the Superdome will most likely have to be torn down.