Superdome upgrade plan wins passage after years of haggling

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FILE - A general view of the Caesars Superdome before an NFL preseason soccer game between the New Orleans Saints and the Jacksonville Jaguars on August 23, 2021, in New Orleans.  Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration and Louisiana's legislative leaders appear to have struck a deal to use $ 27 million in federal pandemic aid to help pay for part of the Superdome renovations.  Federal money and a flanking plan to let the Superdome director pay off state debt sooner are presented to two panels for approval on Thursday, December 16, 2021. (AP Photo / Tyler Kaufman, File)

FILE – A general view of the Caesars Superdome before an NFL preseason soccer game between the New Orleans Saints and the Jacksonville Jaguars on August 23, 2021, in New Orleans. Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration and Louisiana’s legislative leaders appear to have struck a deal to use $ 27 million in federal pandemic aid to help pay for part of the Superdome renovations. Federal money and a flanking plan to let the Superdome director pay off state debt sooner are presented to two panels for approval on Thursday, December 16, 2021. (AP Photo / Tyler Kaufman, File)

PA

More than two years after Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Louisiana would help pay for renovations to the New Orleans Superdome, officials finally agreed to a funding deal on Thursday in which the state will contribute up to $ 54 million. dollars to improvements.

The state will use $ 27 million in federal aid for the coronavirus pandemic and $ 27 million already authorized by the state’s construction budget to cover 12% of the total $ 450 million cost of stadium improvements dome shaped.

“It will be, quite frankly, I think a better relationship” for the state and the Saints of New Orleans, said Senate Speaker Page Cortez, a Republican from Lafayette. He added, “The Saints have been very fair in the negotiations here. ”

The Joint House and Senate Budget Committee and State Bond Commission on Thursday agreed on key elements of the deal, spending the federal money, and a complementary plan to allow the Superdome director to repay a debt to the state years earlier.

Both approvals came without objection after the deal was reached in behind-the-scenes negotiations between the Edwards administration, Treasurer John Schroder, legislative leaders and the Saints.

“It’s been a long road,” said Schroder, the Republican chairman of the Bond Commission.

Edwards described the state’s agreement to pay for a share of stadium improvements as essential to keeping the NFL team in New Orleans for decades.

“It is important for the state to keep this place competitive,” said the Democratic governor.

The final deal will force the state to pay less than the initially proposed $ 90 million for its contribution, and that could go down further.

The $ 27 million in federal pandemic assistance would be returned to the state if hotel / motel taxes allocated to the superdome’s supervisory board, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, rebounded to certain levels by 2023. These levels remain to be negotiated and enshrined in legislation during the regular session, Cortez said.

The $ 450 million improvements to the iconic stadium in downtown New Orleans, nearly 50 years old, include expanded levels of clubs and suites, new concession stands, observation decks and other improvements. The renovations began in 2020 and are expected to be completed before the Super Bowl scheduled at the Superdome in February 2025.

The improvements were announced by Edwards in August 2019, with the goal of keeping the Saints in New Orleans until 2055. Louisiana’s current lease with the NFL team was due to expire in 2025, although the owner of the Saints, Gayle Benson, has pledged to keep the club in New Orleans for a long time. -term.

As part of the stadium funding deal approved Thursday, the Saints pledged to sign an agreement barring the NFL club from staying in New Orleans until 2035, with four options for a five-year extension until 2035. ‘in 2055 if the full Superdome renovations are complete.

“I think this is a very reasonable and fair resolution,” said administration commissioner Jay Dardenne, the governor’s chief budget adviser.

The reworked Superdome upgrade funding deal keeps the Saints on the original $ 150 million plan while the Louisiana Stadium and Exhibition District share increases to $ 246 million.

Legislative leaders opposed an earlier financing plan that required the state to pay $ 90 million, including the forgiveness of bond debt owed to the state. Instead, as part of the deal approved Thursday, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District will repay the state debt in a lump sum of $ 28 million, rather than have it canceled.

Meanwhile, the Saints’ organization agreed to reduce the rent charged to state agencies in a Benson-owned office building to market value, rather than the above-average rental agreements that were in place, said Dardenne.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte.


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