New Orleans Saints fans helped make Super Bowl fantasy a reality

Posted by Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune May 19, 2009 9:08AM

New Orleans Saints fans couldn’t wait for the Superdome to re-open in 2006.

A lot of people will take credit for landing Super Bowl XLVII and rightfully so.

It takes a village to land one of these things and New Orleans leaned on an impressive team of leaders to secure the city’s 10th Super Bowl.

There must be XLVII people who played key roles along the way.

Saints Owner Tom Benson tirelessly lobbied fellow owners.

Saints execs Rita Benson LeBlanc, Dennis Lauscha and Ben Hales worked their contacts behind the scenes.

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Doug Thornton, Ron Forman and Gov. Bobby Jindal hammered out a fair and equitable long-term lease agreement with the team under intense pressure.

Jay Cicero, Sam Joffray and the rest of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation team worked diligently for months to assemble the city’s impressive bid package.

Then there are scores of business, civic and team officials who participated behind the scenes.

All were key pieces in this multi-million-dollar puzzle.

But the real credit belongs to a group that wasn’t at the dais in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. today:

The fans and people of New Orleans.

Without you, this day never dawns.

You took the opening kickoff and put New Orleans in position to score.

If not for the overwhelming show of support in those dark, dreary days, weeks, and months after Hurricane Katrina, there would be no New Orleans Saints, no refurbished Superdome and damn sure no 2013 Super Bowl.

In the face of long odds during one of the most desperate times in the long history of this great city, New Orleanians did not waver. Instead, you rose up, stepped up and opened up your pocket books. When everyone from FEMA to insurance reps to bill collectors was trying to dip their hands into your threadbare pockets, you gave.

Because you refused to let another town loot your NFL team.

Since Katrina ravaged the region four years ago, the Saints have sold out all 25 regular-season and postseason games in the Superdome. Every luxury suite has been sold. The waiting list for season tickets, team officials say, now numbers five figures. All this despite playing in a market that was one of the smallest and poorest in the NFL before Katrina.

That support buoyed the Saints franchise and eliminated the uncertainty about the market’s ability to support an NFL team. It convinced state officials to invest in improvements to the Superdome and eliminated Benson’s seemingly eternal wanderlust. Simultaneously, it renewed the NFL’s confidence in New Orleans and emboldened local business leaders to again market the Crescent City as big-event sports town.

Once we drained the water from our streets, removed the debris and got those wheels turning in the right direction again, this day was inevitable.

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