Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards finished off his visit to New Orleans Saints training camp practice Monday by making a cameo appearance in the Quarterback Challenge, trying to throw footballs through open windows.
Before that, he tossed a couple of touchdowns.
Edwards revealed plans for a $450 million renovation to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and hopefulness to extend the Saints’ lease there for 30 years.
“The state has been working very hard with the Saints as an organization, with the Louisiana Stadium Exposition District, in order to move forward with extensive and needed renovations to the Superdome so that that facility, that venue, will remain competitive for many, many years to come,” Edwards said. “The first piece of the puzzle that needs to come into place – and it should without something unforeseen happening – is Thursday morning, we’re going to have a meeting in Baton Rouge with the bond commission and we expect that they will approve the short-term financing of the renovations, as it relates to the LSED.”
He said that contributions from three sources – the Saints, the LSED and the state – will fund the renovations.
“And this is going to create just a tremendous atmosphere for decades to come,” Edwards said. “For the fan experience, it will help us to make sure that we keep the Saints here for the long term. They’re not just the best tenant for the Superdome, they’re the best tenant for the state of Louisiana. We’re working also on a long-term extension of the Saints, keeping them here another 15 years, and with framework in place for another 15 beyond that. So the goal is the to have the Saints here for 30 more years.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to do that. We don’t think there’s a better place in the world for the Saints. We’re excited about what the Saints are doing for Louisiana, for New Orleans. Also the Pelicans. There’s an energy, there’s an excitement around these organizations that, quite frankly, isn’t just the best that we’ve ever seen here in New Orleans and Louisiana, it’s among the best anywhere in the country. So I just wanted the people to know the state of Louisiana, we’re doing what we can – working with the Saints, working with LSED – to make sure that this is something we can continue to enjoy and derive tremendous benefit from for a very long time to come.”
The renovations would take three or four years to complete, Edwards said.
“The Saints have always been a good partner to the state of Louisiana,” he said. “And working with the (LSED), we’ve made sure that we’ve had communications throughout. I think we’re in a really good place to push this over the goal line, to use that analogy.”
Edwards added that re-investments in facilities such as the Superdome are necessary.
“I expect it to be such a good deal for the state that everybody, regardless of where they live around the state of Louisiana, is going to be excited about it,” he said. “And look: New Orleans is important to the state, and everybody knows that.
“On occasion, you just have to make significant re-investments, especially in something like a facility like the Superdome where you need it to be competitive. And not just competitive from the aspect of the Saints, but every time we improve a venue, more competitive when it relates to bowl games, when it relates to other functions that you can get there. But the fan experience is something that we’re excited about, too, and how we’re really going to upgrade that fan experience at the Superdome.
“What a wonderful facility that has been for the state of Louisiana for a long time. In the time period that we’ve had the Superdome, many other domed stadiums have been built and torn down and we still have the Superdome. But the reason we’ve been able to make that happen is periodically, we go in and we upgrade, we renovate, we make it more energy efficient, we make it where people with disabilities can experience gameday, and so forth. You just have to do this periodically. We think we’re in a good place now to make that happen for the next renovation, and we’ll be able to keep the Saints here for a long, long time to come.”