La. house speaker says stadium deal shouldn't come at taxpayers' expense

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The state shouldn't rush a new deal to keep the Saints in New Orleans, even if it means the city could miss out on hosting the 2013 Super Bowl, Louisiana House Speaker Jim Tucker said Wednesday.

The Saints' lease at the Louisiana Superdome runs through 2018, but the team could break it after the 2010 season by paying a $15 million penalty. The state and the team are in negotiations aimed at extending the lease of the Superdome until 2025.

Without a new deal in place, New Orleans' bid for its 10th Super Bowl -- but its first since 2002 -- would suffer because the Saints' future would remain in doubt. NFL team owners are scheduled to vote on the location of the 2013 Super Bowl during meetings May 18-20 in Florida.

Tucker, who is from the New Orleans area, said the state's deal with the Saints must be in the best interest of taxpayers.

"I don't think we should allow the Super Bowl to rush us into a questionable deal," he said.

Tucker said lawmakers would need to approve parts of any renegotiated deal between the state and the Saints. And he said while he's hopeful, he's not sure if a deal could be worked out in time for approval during the legislative session that begins Monday.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration and lawmakers hope to free the state from making annual cash payments to the Saints as part of the deal that keeps the team in New Orleans.

The state reportedly is in talks with Saints owner Tom Benson about buying an office tower next to the Superdome. The state would lease much of the building back from Benson as a way to give him a subsidy without the state simply writing a check to him each year.

Both the team and the state's chief negotiator have refused to comment on intentions involving the office tower. Tucker said Wednesday the lease arrangement wasn't yet decided.

"It's not by any stretch of the imagination a done deal," Tucker said.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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