NEW ORLEANS — Governor John Bel Edwards claims the state is now at the goal line and close to scoring a new deal to keep the New Orleans Saints in the Merdeces-Benz Superdome for another 30 years.
The team's current lease agreement with Louisiana expires in 2025.
With that in mind, Saints owner Gayle Benson invited the governor to Saints practice and lunch on Monday. Edwards talked about the need to get a new deal done after meeting with team officials.
"We don't think there's a better place for the Saints and we're excited about what the Saints are doing for Louisiana, for New Orleans," Edwards said. "I expect this to be such a good deal for the state that everybody, regardless of where they live around the state of Louisiana, are going to be excited about it."
Part of the new deal calls for $450 million in upgrades and renovations to the dome. The Saints have agreed to fund a third of the project costs, up to $150 million.
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Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District Chairman Kyle France is the governor's pointman concerning the Saints negotiations.
"We we didn't want to do is wait until 2023, 2024 to start negotiating this, knowing that we have to do this facility renovation," France said. "Since we have to do that, we might as well tie it all in."
The state is also renegotiating its current lease at the office tower next to the Superdome, which is owned by Gayle Benson. The last Saints deal required the state to pay above market rate for state offices leasing space in the building.
"That's part and parcel of what we're doing in renegotiating the Saints lease in the dome," France said. "To have a more market-centric rate moving forward."
Replacing the dome, which opened in 1975, is not an option. A new stadium would cost about $2 billion.
"Number one, the cost, but even more important than that, why would we?" France said. "We have an iconic facility here. The bones of this Superdome are incredible."
The state hopes to hammer out that new, long-term lease agreement by the end of this year, then get started on the renovations here at the dome early next year.
The Saints released this statement:
"The Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the New Orleans Saints are iconic brands that remain very important to our city, state and region. Mrs. Benson could not be more proud to work together with our state and local leadership to ensure the long-term viability of the stadium and the team. Our fans deserve the best that we can offer them, whether that is a fan amenity at the stadium or the product on the field and I look forward to bringing that commitment to them for the long term."