Louisiana to default on Saints’ lease?

It seemed like a bad idea at the time: In 2001 the state of Louisiana agreed to pay the New Orleans Saints $186 million over ten years to remain in town. (Paying the team to play at the Superdome, so the argument went at the time, was cheaper than building a whole new stadium as the Saints wanted.) Now, with shortfalls in the hotel/motel tax that was supposed to provide the money, and with naming rights for the Superdome still unsold, the state could be risking defaulting on the Saints’ lease, at which point the team would be free to skip town after the 2004 season.

Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District chair Tim Coulon has suggested several options, including paying the Saints out of general fund revenue, or restructuring the team’s deal in exchange for a $150 million renovation of the Superdome (Coulon didn’t say how this would be paid for).

Worse yet, the state is also facing possible default on a $1.5 million “incentive” payment to the New Orleans Hornets, who only came to town from Charlotte two years ago, but who could leave again if the state doesn’t come up with the cash. Like we said, this sounded like a bad idea at the time…

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