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Louisiana formally asks Saints to come home

NEW ORLEANS (Dec. 22, 2005) -- The State of Louisiana has formally requested that the New Orleans Saints return home.

An attorney for the agency that oversees state-owned sports facilities made the request in a letter sent to the Saints, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and NFL Players' Association director Gene Upshaw.

The letter asks the Saints to uphold their contract with the state by returning to their Louisiana training headquarters as soon as the current regular season ends in early January.

"As you know, the NFL representatives (including Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Players' Association leader, Gene Upshaw) toured the facility on December 5th. Both gentlemen deemed the facility to be in 'excellent condition' and publicly confirmed its 'readiness' for the team to return in early 2006," wrote Larry Roedel, an attorney for the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District. "The State and the LSED consider the Training Facility Lease to be valid and in effect."

Roedel also sent along copies of letters from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard stating they no longer need the Saints practice headquarters, which they had used as a relief base after Hurricane Katrina struck the New Orleans area Aug. 29.

The state has spent millions of dollars on the training facility, which includes corporate offices, several outdoor practice fields and a full-size indoor practice field. The Saints pay rent of $1 per year, plus day-to-day operational costs, to use it.

Attorney Phil Wittman, who represents the Saints, confirmed that the club had received the letter.

He told WWL-TV that the team has been negotiating with the state and that returning to the facility remains an option.

Wittman said Saints owner Tom Benson would not make a final decision until after the season ends.

The Saints will play their final scheduled home game of the 2005 season Dec. 24 in San Antonio, where the team has been temporarily based since Katrina. The season will conclude the following weekend for the Saints (3-11), who will miss the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.

AP NEWS
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