Local Expert Says Saints Have 50/50 Shot Of Coming To Coast

The Mississippi Gulf Coast has always thought of itself as an option, just in case the New Orleans Saints couldn't work out a new deal in Louisiana. When negotiations between the Saints and Louisiana officials ended Tuesday, Hancock County became a viable alternative.

According to Harrison County Development Commission Executive Director Mike Olivier, "We have always said we're not trying to steal the Saints from New Orleans, we're trying to keep the Saints in the Gulf South. We want to keep an NFL franchise in the Gulf South. And that's what this is all about."

Olivier has signed a non-disclosure agreement, meaning he couldn't release details about the Saints and their possible move to Mississippi. But he could speculate about what a move to Hancock County could do for the state. "It could mean that we could save an NFL franchise for a region which will never get an opportunity at it again," Olivier said. "The other thing is it will bring new stature to Mississippi."

WLOX News has learned that the plan is to use part of Stennis Space Center's 125,000 acre buffer zone for not only a football stadium, but a NASCAR track, hotels and other amenities like a sports themed amusement park.

Beth Carriere represents Hancock County's tourism department. "Well my initial response to that," she said, "is wow."

Rumors about the Saints getting off I-10 at Exit 2 in western Hancock County have circulated for months. News that the Saints are now ready to roll out their Mississippi plan has Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre thinking pro football in his back yard could be a bigger economic boost than the arrival of casinos. The mayor said, "If they're serious about moving, I think we can put a package together that would be more than attractive."

According to Olivier, "There is probably a 50/50 chance at this point."

Louisiana officials think moving to Mississippi is a catastrophic mistake. Louisiana Chief of Staff Steve Perry told reporters, "This is a huge corporate bluder on their part." He said Louisiana will look for an investment group to purchase the Saints from owner Tom Benson.