NEW ORLEANS — Already marching through football season, the New Orleans Saints could soon be kicking off home games, away from home.
“Obviously we don’t like when events are moved from New Orleans. New Orleans is the epicenter. It’s a great place for sporting events,” said state Senator Troy Carter from New Orleans.
With New Orleans having tighter COVID-19 restrictions than the rest of the state, the city denied a request from the Saints to allow a limited capacity of fans inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which is enclosed. That has the Saints organization looking to move those home games 80 miles West to Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, an open-air stadium that would allow for about 25,000 socially distanced fans.
“It’s great for LSU but it’s not great for the city,” said lifelong Saints fan Gary Caldwell.
To Caldwell, it’s a play that comes down to one thing.
“The New Orleans Saints is an amazing team but they’re still a business,” said Caldwell. “They still got to make money.”
Saints spokesman Greg Bensel issued a statement Tuesday saying the Saints would prefer to play in the Superdome, but New Orleans leaders haven’t given them any indication on when, or if, they could have fans in the stands.
“The Saints are just like any other business in Louisiana that was affected by COVID. They’ve had to adjust their business model, their business strategy,” said state Senator Cameron Henry from Metairie.
“I have mixed emotions on that,” said New Orleans native and Saints fan Andruski Austin who craves the day fans can return to the dome.
“The people want to get in and see the game. It’s for the people,” said Austin. “It’s going to alleviate a lot of stress. You’re going to forget about everything that’s going on for those three hours.”
The city of New Orleans issued a statement saying while the request for a special exception to the city’s COVID-19 guidelines is under consideration, allowing it inside an indoor stadium would present significant public health concerns.
Whether it’s playing in New Orleans with no fans or in Baton Rouge will some fans, it still presents a continued economic loss for the city of New Orleans.
“Baton Rouge is going to get all of that money. They’re going to get all the restaurant money, all the hotel money,” said Austin. “They’re going to get all of that.”
Sources tell WWL if the move works out, it will not be in place by the Saints’ next home game which is October 25th. Instead, it would most likely happen the following home game, which is November 15th. If this happens, masks will be required inside Tiger Stadium and there will be no tailgating.
Beau Tidwell, the city's director of communications issued the following statement.
“While the Saints’ request for a special exception to the city’s Covid-19 guidelines remains under consideration, allowing 20K people in an indoor space presents significant public health concerns. At present, no NFL stadium in the country with a fixed-roof facility is allowing such an exception. We will continue to monitor the public health data, but cannot set an artificial timeline for how and when conditions may allow for the kind of special exemption being requested."