Saints to pay LSU $300,000 a game
Wednesday, 09/14, 3:45 p.m.
By Jim Kleinpeter
BATON ROUGE – The New Orleans Saints will pay LSU about $1.2 million to play four of its games in Tiger Stadium, LSU athletic director Skip Bertman said Wednesday.
The money -- approximately $300,000 per game -- will be used to cover game expenses and wear and tear on the field. Bertman said LSU will realize little, if any, profit.
“You can’t run a football game in Tiger Stadium without 1,500-1,600 people to help,” Bertman said, “and most of them are not volunteers.
“There will be wear and tear on the field, and I don’t want to have to pay to make the field right. I’m assuming we’re going to expend some effort to keep the field in shape, not that the field is in bad shape.''
Bertman said team owner Tom Benson and the Saints “have been real good about everything.”
Bertman will go before the LSU Board of Supervisors Sept. 23 to get formal approval for allowing the Saints to play in Tiger Stadium. He added there also will be a request to allow beer to be sold for Saints games only. The NCAA does not allow the sale of alcoholic beverages at member events.
Earlier this week, the Saints and LSU agreed to hold four of their home games in Tiger Stadium, starting with an Oct. 30 meeting with the Miami Dolphin, led by former LSU coach Nick Saban. The Saints will return the following Sunday (Nov. 6) to play the Chicago Bears and also will play games there against the Tampa Bay Bucs (Dec. 4) and the Carolina Panthers (Dec. 18).
The Saints will play three other home games in San Antonio: Oct. 2 vs. Buffalo, Oct. 16 vs. Atlanta and Dec. 24 vs. Detroit.
Bertman said a typical Saturday night game in Tiger Stadium requires about 450 uniformed police from four different agencies, all paid, to provide such amenities as security and traffic control.
Then there are the numerous game marshals, ushers, ticket takers, concession stand workers, doctors, Red Cross workers and ambulance personnel.
“You have to have electricians and plumbers available,” he said. “It’s like a large city, 100,000 people, on a given Saturday. The chances of nothing going wrong are zero.”
Field conditions are a big concern, especially if it rains. The field is sand-based for better drainage and the added use could tear it up because it is designed for seven games per season.
Even more stressful for the field is that the teams are scheduled to play back-to-back days two consecutive weekends. The Tigers play North Texas on Oct. 29 before the Saints play Miami, then Appalachian State for Homecoming on Nov. 5, the day before the Saints and Bears tangle.
LSU associate athletic director Herb Vincent said the field will probably be re-sodded during a 19-day break in November between the Saints- Bears game and the LSU-Arkansas game on Nov. 25. It was already scheduled to be completely replaced –- drainage system and all -- after this season.
Vincent said LSU officials got some tips from their trip to Arizona Saturday for the LSU-Arizona State game. Sun Devil Stadium is shared by Arizona State and the Arizona Cardinals.
“They re-sod between the hash marks four times a year,” Vincent said. “Skip always says when you go on the road, bring back at least one thing.”
LSU may not be alone in the task. SMG, which staffs and manages game day operations for the Saints and the New Orleans Hornets, has offered its services in meetings between the Saints and LSU. SMG regional vice president Doug Thornton said that, while LSU knows how to put on a football game, there are some NFL specific areas such as field security and game production in which it mightl need help.
“We’ve not had the opportunity to discuss what role SMG will play, but we’ve offered our assistance to the extent that it is necessary,” said Thornton. “LSU and the Saints want our help.”
Other issues to resolve include hotels, ticket distribution and the Tiger Den suites and club seating. The Saints are responsible for finding the approximately 260 hotel rooms needed for the teams and NFL personnel. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said he was confident the crunch on hotel space will have eased sufficiently by the end of October.
Benson said determining how to distribute tickets and how to handle season ticket holders are priorities and that he would set up a staff in Baton Rouge soon to handle that.
Bertman said Tiger Den suiteholders have the right of first refusal on “the next event” in Tiger Stadium.
“The suiteholder will be offered whatever package the Saints put together first,” Betman said. “That’s in the contract. My guess is they probably should do that for the club section as well. I don’t know how that is going to work.”
Jim Kleinpeter can be reached at 225-892-3816.