by Ken Trahan and Lenny Vangilder
The original home of Arena Football in New Orleans will become the league's new home in the Crescent City, at least for two-thirds of the 2013 season.
The New Orleans VooDoo and the AFL announced Wednesday that the VooDoo will play six home games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
When the city's original AFL franchise, the New Orleans Night, played here two decades ago, it played all of its home games in the Dome. The 1991 team went 4-6 under Eddie Khayat and the 1992 team was 0-10 under the late Vince Gibson before ceasing operations because of a combination of a lack of success on the field, lack of local ownership and other long-term concerns.
Though no dates were announced, sources tell sportsNOLA.com that the Dome portion of the schedule will consist of three separate two-game home stands beginning in late May, mid-June and July.
The move is necessary because the New Orleans Arena will undergo five months of intense renovation upon the completion of the 2012-13 New Orleans Hornets season, as part of $50 million in improvements that are part of the lease agreement between the Hornets and the state.
Baton Rouge and the Mississippi Gulf Coast were considered as alternate sites.
"There are several events we've lost (because of the Arena renovation)," Dome and Arena general manager Alan Freeman said Wednesday, specifically citing next summer's Ringling Bros. Circus. "But the VooDoo will be here.
"The conclusion we came to is we have a very valuable sports asset. Let's keep it here. We found some ways to fit six VooDoo games in (the Superdome)."
VooDoo and SMG officials will meet in the next few days to discuss potential configurations. In fact, barely minutes after Wednesday's news conference was complete, Freeman, AFL commissioner Jerry Kurz and VooDoo owners Dan Newman and Doug Harrington were making the walk across Poydras Street to begin looking at options. A quick decision on a configuration is important to launch a ticket sales campaign.
When the Night played here, the Dome was set up in its former basketball configuration, placing the field on the West side with Plaza level seats from the East side moved to the center of the building.
With changes to the Plaza among the $350 million in renovations made in recent years, the ability to move those seats is no longer an option. However, because the floor area has been "squared off" more since the renovation, the possibility of setting the playing surface in one corner of the Dome is an option.
"In some ways we have less flexibility," Freeman said. "In some ways we have more."
One challenge that the VooDoo must work through is corporate sponsors and working within the parameters of the Saints' existing lease agreement.
"We will work with the Saints" to reach an amicable solution, Freeman said.
Kurz spoke of a more healthy AFL, which has a new five-year labor agreement with its players association and will "soon announce" a second television deal to work in concert with its weekly NFL Network package.
"The VooDoo is here to stay, for many years to come," Kurz said.
Kurz said a developmental league, which was approved by league owners prior to Arena Bowl XXV in New Orleans in August, will be put on hold for one year.
"It's something we wanted to start for the 2013 season," Kurz said. "That's put off until 2014. The emphasis needed to be on television and growth."
Ironically, however, multiple sources indicate to sportsNOLA.com that the league may operate with at least one fewer team in 2013.
"The league is strong and moving forward," Kurz said.
The VooDoo will be the second current AFL team to play games in a domed stadium. The San Antonio Talons play their home games at the Alamodome.
|< Prev||Next >|