Edwards, Legislators Reach Agreement on Superdome Renovation Plan

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FILE - A general view of the Caesars Superdome prior to a preseason NFL football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Jacksonville Jaguars on August 23, 2021 in New Orleans.  Governor John Bel Edwards' administration and Louisiana legislatures appear to have reached an agreement to use $ 27 million in federal pandemic aid to pay for part of the Superdome renovations.  The federal money and an accompanying plan to have the Superdome manager prepaid will go before two boards for approval on Thursday, December 16, 2021. (AP Photo / Tyler Kaufman, file)

FILE – A general view of the Caesars Superdome prior to a preseason NFL football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Jacksonville Jaguars on August 23, 2021 in New Orleans. Governor John Bel Edwards’ administration and Louisiana legislatures appear to have reached an agreement to use $ 27 million in federal pandemic aid to pay for part of the Superdome renovations. The federal money and an accompanying plan to have the Superdome manager prepaid will go before two boards for approval on Thursday, December 16, 2021. (AP Photo / Tyler Kaufman, file)

AP

Governor John Bel Edwards’ administration and Louisiana legislatures appear to have reached an agreement to use $ 27 million in federal pandemic aid to pay for part of the renovation of the New Orleans Superdome, two months after the legislature passed blocked a previous funding proposal.

The Edwards administration describes a state contribution to the Superdome upgrades as critical to reaching a settlement with the Saints that kept the NFL team in the state for decades.

After negotiations behind the scenes, the federal funding plan – along with an accompanying plan with which the Superdome manager can settle his debts to the state years earlier – will be presented to two committees for approval on Thursday. The Bonds Commission and the joint House and Senate Budgets Committee must endorse the deal for the proposal to work.

That seems likely to come after Administrative Commissioner Jay Dardenne, Senate President Page Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder announced they agreed on the outline of the funding plan.

“I feel comfortable with it. I think the members will feel comfortable with us too. I think we’re in good shape, ”said Schexnayder, a Gonzales Republican.

Details of the agreement were communicated to The Associated Press and described in a memo from the Superdome Board of Directors, Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, provided by Dardenne’s office.

The new deal would result in the state earmarking $ 54 million of the $ 450 million for stadium improvements: $ 27 million has already been approved from the state construction budget and $ 27 million from federal coronavirus aid . That’s a decrease from previous proposals, where the state would contribute $ 90 million to the Superdome renovations.

“We have an arrangement that I think is acceptable to all,” said Dardenne, the Democratic governor’s budget adviser.

The revised Superdome improvement plan would keep the Saints at the original plan of $ 150 million, while that of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District would increase to $ 246 million.

And the state’s stake could even drop below $ 54 million. Cortez said the $ 27 million federal pandemic aid would be repaid to the state if hotel / motel tax dollars allocated to Louisiana Stadium and the Exposition District rose to certain levels by 2023.

“We want to be economical with it and we want the stadium deal to be a fairer deal for the state,” said Cortez, a Lafayette Republican. “It has to be a better partnership.”

The state’s current lease with the NFL team expires in 2025, although Saints owner Gayle Benson has promised to keep the club in New Orleans for the long term.

The $ 450 million upgrades to the nearly 50-year-old iconic stadium in downtown New Orleans – with expanded club and suite levels, new concession stands, observation decks, and other improvements – were part of a plan that Edwards was more than 10 years old Announced two years ago, the goal was to keep the Saints in New Orleans by 2055.

Stadium renovations began in 2020 and are expected to be completed before the Super Bowl, which is due to take place in the Superdome in February 2025. Dardenne said it was critical to reach an agreement on the state’s share of the funding by the end of the year that Louisiana Stadium and the Exposition District can sign a contract for the next stages of construction.

Among other features of the plan:

– The Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District will pay off a US $ 28 million bond owed to the state, rather than in installments over years. Cortez and Schexnayder said repaying the debt would be critical to reaching an agreement. Legislators rejected an earlier plan whereby the state would simply cancel the debt as part of its contribution to the renovation work.

—The Saints organization has agreed to lower government rent for a Benson office building to market value, rather than the above-average leases that have previously existed.

– The Saints will sign an agreement outlining the NFL club’s commitment to remain in New Orleans through 2035, with two 10-year extension options when the full renovation of the Superdome is completed.

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



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