Byrne: Saints should stay in Big Easy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Former Natchez Mayor Tony Byrne – who serves on the New Orleans Saints Advisory Board – doesn’t want the Saints to leave the Big Easy.

&uot;I don’t want them to leave,&uot; he said. &uot;The people have supported the Saints for more than 30 years – even when they were losing, but I don’t want them to leave.&uot;

Byrne, who was recently appointed to a second term on the team’s board by owner Tom Benson, said he realizes the state-owned Superdome has problems, but it’s centrally located, and New Orleans is a good market for the team.

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Talks to keep the Saints in New Orleans broke off Tuesday and the team’s owner may be trying to force up the price to potential buyers while threatening a move to Mississippi.

&uot;I hope cooler heads prevail,&uot; Byrne said.

Although several sites have been mentioned in Saints bargaining, Byrne said the Mississippi Gulf Coast is not large enough to support the team.

There aren’t enough hotels in the Biloxi-Gulfport area, he said. &uot;I’m from Mississippi, but there just aren’t enough hotels for the casinos, not to mention the Saints.&uot;

A deal in Mississippi would include a new stadium, training facility and a sports-themed amusement park, with parking and tailgating areas. The complex would be just off Interstate 10. Five casinos would guarantee suite sales under the deal the Saints outlined.

If the team continues to win – like the 2000 season when the Saints lost in the NFC West title game – the area will do a better job supporting the team, Byrne said. &uot;They’ve got a winner in there now in (coach) Jim Haslett. The area will support the team if it wins,&uot; Byrne said.