Money for Superdome renovations remains in legislative limbo
“It worries me a bit that we are getting caught up in New Orleans politics and it will cost the state in the long run.”
NEW ORLEANS – A crucial part of the plan to keep the Saints in New Orleans until 2055 remains in legislative limbo.
Governor John Bel Edwards has pledged the state to invest $ 90 million of the $ 450 million underway for renovations to Caesar’s Superdome in New Orleans.
Almost three years later, state lawmakers are still debating whether to write the check.
“Louisiana is a poor state, and we had better make sure we take care of the entities that drive our economy in that state,” Louisiana State Treasurer John Schroder said. “I think the Superdome is one of those.”
Schroder chairs the government bonds committee.
On Thursday, the panel discussed at length a plan to fund the state’s share in the dome renovations.
That would involve forgiving $ 63 million in unpaid debts owed by the superdome’s supervisory board, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED).
“It worries me a bit that we’re getting dragged into New Orleans politics and that will cost the state in the long run,” Schroder said.
Schroder says that when the last deal was made to extend the Saints’ lease to 2025, lawmakers in the New Orleans area held key positions such as chairman of the Senate and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Those who now make the decisions in the state capital come from other parts of the state.
Current Senate Speaker Page Cortez R-Lafayette is against the proposed debt relief.
“I don’t think the cancellation of this debt sends a positive message to the people of the state of Louisiana,” Cortez said.
Administration commissioner Jay Dardenne, chief fiscal adviser to Governor Edwards, is also on the bond committee.
He says the dome upgrades are needed to keep the Saints in New Orleans until 2055 and state money is needed now to ensure future phases of the renovations are done.
“It is essential in order to keep the schedule in place to complete Phases Three and Four, completion in time for the Super Bowl scheduled for 2025, that this work begins early next year,” Dardenne said. “I hope it will not be the will of this bond commission to break this commitment and lose this opportunity that we have in the future.”
Schroder says he’s not sure the issue will be raised at the November bond commission meeting.
“I’m going to push all sides to walk into a room and make a decision whether it’s yes or no,” he said.
LSED issued this statement:
“LSED will continue to communicate with members of the Legislative Assembly on how best to fund the state’s share in the Superdome renovation project. This is a multi-year process, with LSED and the Saints having contributed significantly to the progress of the renovation so far. We remain optimistic about the possibility of finding a solution that will allow the renovation to continue so that a long-term lease with the Saints can be signed.
In addition to the state covering $ 90 million of the renovations, the Saints agreed to pay $ 150 million and the LSED, $ 210 million.
The first two phases of the project have already been completed.
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