The New Orleans Superdome has cost Louisiana taxpayers a lot of money over the years: $134 million to build it in the first place in 1975, then $54 million for emergency repairs after Hurricane Katrina, then $376 million in non-emergency repairs after that, including replacing the exterior and redoing the entire lower bowl of the stadium with new seating and club space. Along the way, the state paid Saints owner Tom Benson $186 million to keep the team in town through 2011, then another $392 million to keep the team in town through 2025. But 2025 is just eight years away now, so of course Benson is starting to plan ahead for his next payday:
State officials took the first step toward another potential makeover of New Orleans’ iconic downtown stadium last week when the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District approved funding for a master plan to renovate the Superdome…
“The whole idea of this was not to wait until the last minute,” Saints president Dennis Lauscha said. “If we’re going to do this, let’s start now. This project is about trying to get the stadium to the next generation of fans and make it fun for them, as well.”
What would the “next generation of fans” consider “fun”? Apparently such things as “a re-imagined front door,” moving two parking garages, new roof windows, an expanded visiting locker room, renovated press box, and “installation of virtual reality technology.” Price tag: between $150 million and $500 million, which is a broad range. Neither Saints execs nor the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District nor the New Orleans Times-Picayune mentioned who’d pay for it or how, but given past experience, “entirely out of Tom Benson’s pocket” seems unlikely.
If the renovation happens and hits the high end of the cost estimate, that’ll push the public cost of keeping Benson happy to almost $1.5 billion over the past 16 years. Current estimated cost to just buy the damn Saints from Benson and shut down his subsidy demands forever, while simultaneously getting access to $70 million-plus in revenues a year: $1.75 billion. Not to say that Louisiana is doing this wrong, but, yeah.