Gayle Benson Plots Out Saints, Pelicans New Orleans’ Future

The team’s owner wants them to remain in New Orleans after she passes away.

Gayle Benson, the 74-year-old owner of the National Football League’s New Orleans Saints and the National Basketball Association’s New Orleans Pelicans has put together a plan that she hopes will keep the two teams in the Louisiana city after she passes away. Benson wants to see the teams remain but she has left instructions to sell the teams and that could be a problem. New owners might not want to agree to a Superdome deal for the NFL team or an arena deal for the NBA team if those leases require long term commitments of 30 years or more. New Orleans has been shedding population and lacks a major corporate presence. In the past, the state of Louisiana has thrown money the Saints and Pelicans way. There is also the threat of major hurricanes. This year, the Benson Saints played the home opener in Jacksonville after Hurricane Ida caused local significant damage. The team practiced in Texas. The Benson lease with Louisiana, the owner of the Superdome, runs through 2025. The two sides are talking about a 10-year extension with options for two more 10-year extensions through 2055. The Superdome opened in 1975 and has undergone numerous renovations and will have to go through more if that lease through 2055 is actually signed.

The NBA franchise may be a tougher sell. New Orleans is a small TV market and the present lease between Benson and Louisiana, which runs the local arena, ends in 2024. Pelicans tickets are not the hot item. The 22-year-old arena has a small physical structure which means renovations to keep it a state-of-the-art facility may be difficult. A new arena might be needed. Gayle Benson’s plans could be derailed by her late husband’s Tom disowned daughter and two grandchildren who could sue and regain control of the teams.

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Storm shutters are hammered closed on a 100-year-old house, Friday, August 27, 2021, in New Orleans, as residents prepare for Hurricane Ida. (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)