We have been very fortunate to have Phil Miller provide us with the details behind the saga of the NFL Vikings’ search for a new stadium here and here. I can readily imagine there are similar motives at work with this story out of San Antonio:
A local attorney representing New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson said Tuesday that Benson is interested in relocating the franchise, possibly to San Antonio.
Translation: He is shopping the team around, one way or another, seeking the best deal he can get from the municipality (and state!) willing to pony up the biggest subsidy.
In fact, there is good reason to believe he is looking very carefully at Los Angeles [the quotation below is from Red Stick Observer , which provides considerably more information than I have quoted].
As for Albuquerque – yes, the Saints are flirting with New Mexico too, according to the Express-News – that just won’t happen. The NFL doesn’t have room for a duplicate of the Arizona Cardinals.
So the obvious direction of the team is….drumroll, please….Los Angeles. Benson can draw around a $1 billion offer for the Saints (which is a great payoff for him, considering he paid around $70 million for the team in the 1980s). And all signs point to the team’s departure west after the 2005 season.
The team’s exit clause from its deal with Louisiana calls for a one-time $81 million payout within 90 days of the Saints’ 2005 season finale. If Benson does that, he is free and clear to do what he wants. By not renegotiating the overly charitable deal with the state, Benson showed his hand. He will have his cake and eat it too, by still receiving the $15 million in payment from Louisiana, while maintaining the ability to cut and run after 2005.
The obligation to keep the [team] in Louisiana would apparently still be intact even if Benson sold the team to another suitor. That would restrict offers he would receive for the team. So, if he forks over the $81 mil for the exit clause, the team could be sold to the highest bidder and moved – where else – to Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest media market. That $81 million pales in comparison to a $1 billion payday.
Eventually, someone in the NFL may actually have to move to Los Angeles, and the Saints seem like a good choice; otherwise, Los Angeles might lose its cachet as a credible threat for all the other owners in their negotiations with local gubmnts for more subsidies.
And, of course, once/if the Saints move to Los Angeles, then New Orleans becomes a viable option for the other owners to use as a credible threat in their own negotiations with their own municipalities.