Benson Brings AFL to New Orleans
May 13, 2003 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) News Release
Continuing his dedication to providing the best sports entertainment to the New Orleans area, Saints owner Tom Benson has brought an Arena Football League expansion franchise to the city. The New Orleans VooDoo is scheduled to kickoff play at the New Orleans Arena in February of 2004, and the league s exciting brand of football and economical pricing is expected to make the VooDoo a fan favorite in New Orleans.
Benson, Owner of the Saints for the last 18 years, committed to the purchase of an AFL club for New Orleans in 1998, making him the first NFL owner to do so. Since then, several NFL owners have followed Bensons lead and purchased Arena franchises. After Bensons commitment, the AFL officially awarded the Saints owner an expansion franchise on March 7, 2002. Last spring, fans voted to name the new club the VooDoo in an online poll at www.NewOrleansSaints.com.
I remain committed to the greater good of the sports scene in New Orleans, as well as to this city and the Gulf South region as a whole, and bringing in a new Arena Football League franchise is another positive step forward for our community, Benson said. The AFL is exciting to me as an owner, and will certainly bring excitement to sports fans in and around New Orleans. We were drawn to the AFL because of its quality ownership, its national television contract with NBC and its strong leadership on top in the form of Commissioner David Baker.
Said Baker: "Tom Benson was the first NFL owner to step forward and join the Arena Football League in 1998," said Baker. "I am thrilled that his vision and support are coming to fruition and that he will be fielding a team in 2004. The VooDoo represent the cornerstone of AFL growth for the 2004 season."
That growth is evident in the new teams that are entering the league. Nashville owned by Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams has already been approved to play next season pending it secures an arena-lease agreement. Other markets interested in AFL teams for 2004 are Philadelphia, Boston, Columbus, St. Louis and Washington, owned by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. Other NFL owners involved in AFL ownership are Dallas Cowboys/Desperados owner Jerry Jones and Denver Broncos owner/Colorado Crush part-owner Pat Bowlen, who is joined by former Broncos quarterback John Elway in the venture.
Often recognized as one of the nation's most affordable and fan-friendly sports leagues, the Arena Football League kicked off its 17th season and first on NBC in February. NBC has provided the AFL with unprecedented exposure by televising up to 70 games, including all playoff contests and ArenaBowl XVII on June 22.
Former Saints Director of Regional Sales & Marketing Mike Feder will head the VooDoo as Executive Director. Rita LeBlanc, a Saints employee and Benson s granddaughter, has been named Director of Marketing and Special Events for the VooDoo. The VooDoos coaching staff and football operations officials will be hired through the efforts of Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager of Football Operations Mickey Loomis and his staff.
MERCHANDISE New Orleans VooDoo merchandise is now available in all New Orleans Sports Avenue stores, as well as through the teams official web site: www.govoodoo.com.
ABOUT THE ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE The Arena Football League consists of 23 teams (16 active for 2002 season), including eight in the 10 largest U.S. media markets. An additional seven expansion teams have already been approved to begin to play over the next three years.
Current AFL ownership includes: Pat Bowlen (NFLs Denver Broncos), Stan Kroenke (NHLs Colorado Avalanche, NBAs Denver Nuggets, and minority owner of NFLs St. Louis Rams), and John Elway, Colorado Arena Football; Jerry Jones family, Dallas Desperados (NFL's Dallas Cowboys ownership); William Ford Jr., Detroit Fury (NFL's Detroit Lions); Tom Benson New Orleans Voodoo (NFL's New Orleans Saints); Jerry Colangelo, Arizona Rattlers, (NBA's Phoenix Suns and MLB's Arizona Diamondbacks); Dan DeVos, Grand Rapids Rampage (NBA's Orlando Magic); Charles Wang, New York Dragons (NHL's New York Islanders).
Additionally, four other NFL owners have applied or been approved for ownership of future AFL expansion teams, including Tennessee Titans K.S. Bud Adams Jr., Washington Redskins' Daniel Snyder, Jacksonville Jaguars' Wayne Weaver, and San Francisco 49ers' Denise DeBartolo York.
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