Shreveport mayor Ollie Tyler presented the city council Tuesday with a proposal for a $30-million sports complex to anchor a $100-million-plus mixed-use development site on the north side of downtown.
The main tenant in the 3,200-seat arena would be the future G-League team for the New Orleans Pelicans. However, the city also has its eye on the New Orleans Saints, an NFL franchise also owned by Tom Benson.
In the drawings presented Tuesday are two football fields next to the arena labeled “Saints Practice Facility.”
According to local banker Rick Holland, who has helped broker a relationship between Shreveport and the Saints for more than 20 years, Mickey Loomis, the executive vice president of basketball operations for the Pelicans and general manager of the Saints, was in town three weeks ago to tour the proposed site for more than just his basketball team.
“(The proposal) has the fields and they are programming training camp in (the site),” Holland told The Times. “(The Saints) need 150 hotel rooms, 10 meeting rooms and two football fields.
“All you’d have to do to get camp next year is level that dirt (for the fields). The convention center says they can put an indoor turf field inside. The Saints can practice outside in the morning and inside in the afternoon. They don’t have to get on the bus to go anywhere – they’d go from their (hotel) rooms, to the meeting rooms to the practice fields.”
The Saints’ 2017 training camp is currently in full swing at the team’s headquarters in Metairie. The prior three years, New Orleans held training camp at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. A series of training camps in Shreveport would logically help solidify the Saints' footprint in north Louisiana.
In 1998, Shreveport was the home for a controlled scrimmage between the Saints and the Dallas Cowboys at Independence Stadium. In 2006, the teams returned to town for a preseason game.
“At last year’s Super Derby, I took (Shreveport CAO, Brian) Crawford and (Bossier City mayor, Lo) Walker to the Saints suite to meet with Mr. Benson. We told them we’d love to have camp up here. We could have training camp next summer.”
Holland says it would also make sense for the proposed facility to house a weightlifting camp.
“We need to build a gym (the Saints) can use while they’re here, and it’s an Olympic training facility the rest of the year.”