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NFL Reiterates L.A. Not an Option for Saints

Times Staff Writer

Responding to a suggestion by a Los Angeles County supervisor that the Coliseum be made available to the displaced New Orleans Saints, the NFL reiterated Tuesday that L.A. was not a viable option in this case.

Earlier in the day, during a Board of Supervisors meeting, Mike Antonovich said allowing the Saints to use the Coliseum would “provide needed continuity and ... help the city of New Orleans continue its recovery.”

“It’s the home to the University of Southern California -- the No. 1 football team in the nation -- and to a soccer league where we have many times over 80,000 participants attending those soccer matches,” Antonovich said. “So as L.A. County is opening up their homes and providing safety personnel and resources to help the victims of Katrina, we also have facilities that could house their professional football team and give them a world-class facility for a world-class football team.”

Antonovich is an alternate on the Coliseum Commission, which runs the stadium.

Said league spokesman Brian McCarthy when informed of the suggestion, “We appreciate the offer, but Los Angeles is not under consideration.”

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The issue is sensitive because the Saints have been a candidate for the last few years to relocate to the L.A. area. If the team were to move now -- even temporarily -- it would look to many as if L.A. were poaching the franchise.

Antonovich said he didn’t believe that it would help Los Angeles’ cause in wooing a team and that Saint fans should not view the offer as an attempt to draw the team here permanently.

“I would say that’s a wrong impression,” Antonovich said. “That decision is made by the owner of the New Orleans Saints, not Los Angeles. Los Angeles has been working with the NFL for a team. Very likely, it will be an expansion team.”

The game against the New York Giants that was supposed to be the Saints’ home opener at the Superdome on Sept. 18 has been moved to Sept. 19, a Monday night, and will be played at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

The Superdome served as a makeshift shelter for thousands last week, but officials now say that it might be damaged beyond repair and could be torn down, according to a spokesperson for Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco. At least three options were being considered for the seven other home games the Saints were to have played.

Among the options: Playing at the Alamodome in San Antonio, where the team has set up temporary headquarters; playing at Louisiana State University’s Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge; and playing all “home” games at the stadiums of their opponents.

“I have expressed my desire to play games in Baton Rouge, to the extent circumstances allow,” Saint owner Tom Benson said Tuesday in a written statement.

Benson said ticket holders unable to attend home games, wherever they occur, “should also be assured that they will be permitted to request refunds.”


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