Dear New Orleans Saints,
On Thursday, March 18, I was a season ticket holder in Section 641, Row 42, of the Louisiana Superdome, the sacred home of the World Champion New Orleans Saints. On Friday, March 19, I was not.
I am not writing to protest the renovation of the Superdome or the placement of the new press box at the top of the Upper Terrace. Nor am I writing to bash the brave ticket account representatives who had the unenviable task of calling 1,200 stunned and hurt fans on Thursday and Friday. I understand these are necessary moves that, while painful to all of us whose game day communities have been removed, will allow the city to attract more Super Bowls and will allow the team to collect more revenue.
I am writing to request the team re-think its process for relocating these 1,200 Who Dats, whose first thought on hearing the news was likely, “You mean I’m not going to be in the Dome to see the Super Bowl banner drop?” I am writing to request that the World Champion New Orleans Saints develop a plan to insure that all 1,200 displaced Who Dats have an option to buy a temporary seat for the 2010 season until more permanent seats are added in 2011.
The current relocation process, as explained to me by a courteous account representative, puts us all at the top of the season ticket waiting list. So, through no fault of our own, we go from “World Champion New Orleans Saints season ticket holder” to “on the 60,000 person waiting list” for a chance to buy seats comparable to the ones that were previously ours. The current relocation process requires us to wait until early May, presumably after the first deadline for season ticket holders (whose seats were not removed) to make payment on their account. I was told we will not receive a season ticket invoice this week, as we are no longer season ticket holders. I am unclear on whether those invoices will give season ticket holders the traditional opportunity to request more seats or relocate their current seats before we are given a relocation offer.
So, the current relocation process seems to make 1,200 displaced Who Dats wait two months until we will receive phone calls, with a representative working individually to relocate each seat lost. As my account rep told me, there is no guarantee that our seats will be relocated for the 2010 season, a season in which our New Orleans Saints will play as reigning Super Bowl champions for the first time ever. There is no guarantee we’ll be offered a single game in the 2010 season.
But, if we are not relocated during the 2010 season, we will be back at the top of the waiting list for the 2011 season, where we will presumably have the opportunity to buy a seat because the Superdome will have 3,000 additional seats. It is possible, the account rep said, that our relocation offers will be for seats that are far more expensive than the ones that were taken from us, which ranged from $30 - $33 a ticket in 2009 and $40 - $43 a ticket in 2010. And any individual game tickets returned by opposing teams will be offered for purchase to the 1,200 displaced Who Dats still on the waiting list. So, in 2010 we’re looking at ticket options for which games? The Browns? The Cardinals? The Bucs?
What disturbs me most is that the World Champion New Orleans Saints have not shown the sort of respect and gratitude for these 1,200 displaced Who Dats that they demonstrated in placing a thank you card in a recent issue of the Times-Picayune. That card read, “World Champion Fans . . . The Saints Salute You. We’d like to thank our World Champion Fans for helping to make this season truly unforgettable. We couldn’t be the Super Bowl Champions without you.” Reading that card a few Sundays ago, I was reminded of Jim Henderson’s call for the NFC Championship game: “It’s a great day to be a New Orleanian. It’s a great day to be a Saint.” By comparison, yesterday’s phone conversation with the ticket office was a Garret Hartley kick to the groin.
Every section in the Superdome considers itself the “best section,” “the most passionate section,” “the loudest section,” “the most loyal section,” “the most colorful section.” Every section will tell you it has built lifelong friendships in its seats; celebrated births; mourned deaths; and in 2006 and 2009, cherished special seasons. I’m biased, but I believe that this happens more easily in the Upper Terrace.
I know it happens in Section 641, which we call Café 641, where fans costume as Chef Who Dat, Denim & Diamonds, Ms. Shootz to Kill, The Entity, Hold-that-Line Cook, Adult Industry Chef, Dirty Dog, even Nacho Libre and Joe Dirt. We distribute satirical menus for every game that poke fun at the opposition: Dirty Bird Rice; Pants on the Ground Fumbalaya; Warmed-over Warner Schnitzel. We award golden spoon awards to the most spirited fan in our section each week. We apply eye-black to as many kids’ faces as parents will let us. We wave rubber chickens costumed as “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” We bring boxed Barbie Ken dolls: Tom Brady as “The New England Ken Doll” and Tony Romo as “Romo the Rodeo Clown.” We make buttons that proclaim “Roofbanger” and distribute them hundreds at a time. We travel, as a group, to the airport to tell Our Saints, “thank you.” We distribute “Roofbanger’s Creed” prayer cards and recite them in unison before kickoff: “We believe in the New Orleans Saints . . .” And we are gracious hosts to opposing fans (ask Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells, whose fiancé sat in a Café 641 seat that has now been removed: she was offered drinks, food, and congratulations when Beanie scored). Most importantly, we support each other, our city, and Our New Orleans Saints.
I do not blame the New Orleans Saints for placing a press box at the top of the Upper Terrace. I do not blame the New Orleans Saints for breaking up one of the Superdome’s truly great sections and core group of fans. But, I am disappointed that our World Champion franchise:
• did not give these fans considerable advance notice,
• did not follow-up a phone conversation with a letter or e-mail that details the relocation process,
• did not develop a creative strategy to insure they will be in the Superdome when the Super Bowl banner drops,
• did not recognize that being a World Champion New Orleans Saints season ticket holder means more than having a physical seat to watch a football game; it’s a bond with one’s team and city.
The current relocation process puts these dedicated fans in limbo. We do not know when we’ll be contacted in May because we do not know when season ticket invoices are due. We do not know who, specifically, will contact us, and how that person will “work with us individually to relocate us.” We do not know the process used to determine if an available seat is offered to us: Will we only be offered comparably priced seats? Will we be offered the first available seat regardless of location? Will we be priced out of the Superdome?
The World Champion New Orleans Saints know something about improvising. They did it after the levees broke in August 2005, and home games were played in Tiger Stadium. They did it in re-opening the Superdome, balancing a tribute to the stadium as a site of tragedy and rebirth. They did it after winning the Super Bowl, accommodating fans at the airport, in an unforgettable parade, and throughout Mardi Gras.
Will you not improvise now? Call an audible. Create a temporary solution for 2010:
• standing room only sections (we’re used to standing at the top of the Dome);
• bleachers placed on the field separated by section;
• fewer seats offered to the opposition.
We all recognize that this is not an easy problem to solve. We all appreciate the respectful conversations we’ve had with the ticket office. And we all know that a World Champion organization who is so connected to its fans and their culture can find a way to accommodate us now.
Thank you in advance for re-considering the process you use to relocate us, providing more specific details about that process, and committing to finding a seat for all of us when the Super Bowl banner drops on September 9.
Ross Louis, New Orleans
Section 641, Row 42, Seats 9-10