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franklin county times

Saints eye Mississippi

By By Rob Sigler/The Meridian Star
June 27, 2001
Rampant rumors of the New Orleans Saints finding a home in the Magnolia State could turn into reality now that negotiations with the NFL franchise and the state of Louisiana to keep the team in the Crescent City have broken down.
That could be good news for Mississippi, where for the past few weeks talk of a new stadium has been centered in Hancock and Pearl River counties.
Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove wouldn't say what kind of contact, if any, the state is making with Saints owner Tom Benson.
If the Saints wish to negotiate with the state of Mississippi, we will be glad to sit down and talk with them concerning their future,'' Musgrove said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Asked if he felt the Saints were using Mississippi as a pawn, the governor replied: The state of Mississippi has in no way been used, whatsoever.''
Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre said to this point he's had informal discussions with coast tourism representatives and county officials about a possible Saints move, according to the Associated Press.
I think it's time we find out if they're serious and put a package together,'' Favre said.
Since winning their first playoff game in franchise history this past season, Benson and the Saints have been saying the team can't afford to play in the Louisiana Superdome. Benson wants a new stadium by 2006, while Foster and the state want to renovate the Superdome and have a new stadium in place by 2009.
According to Jack Capella, a lawyer for the state agency that runs the Superdome, the deal in Mississippi would include a new stadium training facility and sports-themed amusement park, with parking and tailgaiting areas. The complex would be just off Interstate 10. Five casinos would guarantee suite sales under the deal the Saints outlined, Capella said.
Moving the franchise to the Mississippi coast, where casinos have become one of the primary industries, may not be that feasible, said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College in North Hampton, Mass.
Steve Perry, Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster's chief of staff, said moving the team to Mississippi would be a catastrophic mistake for the franchise on every conceivable level.
For one thing the population base doesn't exist there,'' he said. It would require everyone in New Orleans driving to Mississippi to go to the games. This is a huge corporate blunder on their part.''
Rob Sigler is sports editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3235, or e-mail rsigler@themeridianstar.com.