The New Orleans Saints and NFL suddenly are facing the possibility that the team might not be able to use its home field at the Superdome, which was damaged by Hurricane Katrina, for much or all of the season.
A source familiar with the deliberations said today it's possible that the Superdome will not be available for a considerable amount of time. No one involved in the discussions knows yet how long it will take for repairs to be made to the building, the source said, but the Saints and the league have begun to study scenarios in which the club would play elsewhere for a considerable portion of the season, or even all of it. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because talks still are at an early stage.
Possible alternative sites for Saints' home games if the Superdome can't be used include San Antonio, Houston, Jackson, Miss., and Baton Rouge, La. The league would like the Saints to play games as close as possible to New Orleans if the Superdome is deemed unfit for use.
Two sections of the building's roof covering were blown off by Katrina, and conditions worsened Tuesday as New Orleans was flooded.
The Saints have made tentative plans to base their operations in San Antonio after their preseason finale Thursday at Oakland, team spokesman Greg Bensel said Tuesday.
Saints owner Tom Benson reportedly has two homes and several car dealerships in San Antonio, and that city has been mentioned as a possible home for the franchise if it were to relocate. Benson said during the offseason that he would make a decision about the franchise's future in New Orleans after the 2005 season.
The team is practicing this week in San Jose, Calif.
Bensel said Tuesday that damage assessments of the Superdome had not been completed. The league and the Saints already had begun discussions at that point about contingency plans in case the Superdome is not ready for use by the club's Sept. 18 home opener against the New York Giants, but Bensel and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday that no decisions had been made.
The Saints open the regular season on the road, at Carolina on Sept. 11.