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Tagliabue tours New Orleans, Superdome

NEW ORLEANS (Dec. 5, 2005) -- NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue toured flood-ravaged areas of New Orleans on Dec. 5, as well as the hurricane-damaged Louisiana Superdome and the New Orleans Saints ' practice facility to help determine whether the Saints will play and practice here next season.

Tagliabue had breakfast with local civic and business leaders before his tour of eastern New Orleans, the lower Ninth Ward and the Lakeview neighborhood, all severely flooded after Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29.

The NFL is trying to determine whether the Saints can return to their regular base of operations next season, and split their home schedule between LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge and the Louisiana Superdome, which could be ready for pro football by November. Another option would be for the Saints to remain in San Antonio, where they have been temporarily based since Hurricane Katrina.

Tagliabue was prevented from attending the Tampa Bay-New Orleans game Dec. 4 in Baton Rouge as planned because of snow and ice in New York that delayed his flight.

Saints owner Tom Benson did go to the game though, and was expected to accompany Tagliabue on the tour, team spokesman Greg Bensel said. Benson had once said he would not attend games in Tiger Stadium because of heckling by fans and an altercation with a television crew at a previous game.

State officials have said the Saints' training and office complex in Metairie, used as a relief base following the hurricane, was not damaged and is available for use at any time.

The Superdome has been largely cleaned up since its use as an evacuation shelter, with damaged carpeting and wall board torn out. It still needs millions of dollars in restoration work, however. Its extensive electrical and communications systems were damaged by rain after Katrina's winds tore holes in the roof, and mold stains can be seen on wall paneling extending from the upper deck to the roof.

The roof already has been repaired.

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