Saints Owner Tom Benson Undergoes Heart Bypass Surgery

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson underwent successful bypass surgery Tuesday to relieve blockages in his coronary arteries, team officials said. Saints spokesman Greg Bensel described Benson as being in good spirits and added he was expected to make a full recovery and to return to work soon. Benson, 73, has owned the Saints since May 31, 1985.

Cardiovascular surgeon Moe Bethea lead a team of four doctors at Memorial Medical Center, officials said. Benson underwent a coronary angiogram Monday following a routine physical that revealed symptoms suggestive of artery blockages.

The angiogram confirmed the blockages, prompting doctors to schedule the surgery. An angiogram is an X-ray of blood vessels and the organs they supply. A dye that shows up on X-rays is injected into the bloodstream so the X-ray will show any blocked or partly blocked blood vessels


The New Orleans Saints moved closer to tapping a new source of money with a measure that won approval from a state House committee. The state could sell corporate sponsorship of the Louisiana Superdome and offer the revenue to the Saints as enticement to stay in New Orleans under the measure approved Tuesday by the House Appropriations Committee.

The bill moves next to the full House. ``It gives the state a flexibility regarding negotiating strength,'' said Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, author of the bill. Scalise pointed to Memphis, where the Vancouver Grizzlies' NBA team hopes to move after receiving a lucrative multimillion deal with the FedEx Corp. FedEx offered to buy naming rights to the team and the new arena.

Scalise said Superdome officials estimate the naming rights could be sold for as much as $80 million _ $4 million a year for 20 years. Legislators added an amendment to the measure that requires the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget to approve the sale of the naming rights by the Superdome commission, and the donation of that money to any entity besides the state. Some legislators said they were concerned about letting the commission decide how to use the money when the state has such a tight budget.

``The Superdome belongs to the citizens of this state,'' said Rep. Charles McDonald, D-Bastrop. Maybe the money the dome earns should go to the state, too, he said. ``A lot of other people out there are concerned about giving, giving, giving the state's assets,'' said Rep. Hunt Downer, D-Houma, noting that the Saints only use the Superdome for 10 games each year.

Scalise said the Saints bring money to the state, pointing to the Super Bowl which will be held at the Superdome in 2002. Scalise said the Super Bowl is estimated to bring at least $300 million to the state. Only cities with NFL teams can host Super Bowls.

The Saints have long said they need more revenue to compete with other NFL teams. Likely options include structural and lease changes at the Superdome that could channel more money to the team from the sale of luxury boxes, parking, concessions, advertising and naming rights. Another option is building a new football-only stadium in the area.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)