When one ponders New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson's demand for a new stadium, the first reaction is disbelief. "Why should we pay this multi-millionaire? The state is broke, and he's buying yachts with our taxes." While the notion of funding millionaires when our state is in disrepair can be upsetting ("Saints and Sinners," June 1), losing the economic engine of an NFL franchise would be even more paralyzing. Though many people's lives have been cut short by the agonizing plays of the Saints, one must separate his disappointment in the product from the economic impact that the NFL has on a city.

In 2002, University of New Orleans Chancellor Dr. Tim Ryan did a study on the economic impact of the Saints to the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. He figured that the Saints account for $181.1 million in direct spending to New Orleans and the state. A recent study done by New Orleans CityBusiness ' using the same method the state used to justify giving incentives to Union Tank Car and CG Railway for relocating ' figures that the Saints yield an annual $80.38 million return on Louisiana's investment.

The often criticized deal that the Saints currently have with the state, negotiated by Gov. Mike Foster, contains a clause in it that states that in 10 years the Saints will donate $50 million dollars to New Orleans charities. So far, the aid has gone to after-school programs, alcohol and drug education and Big Brothers Big Sisters. This is a tremendous aid to the state, yet it goes unrecognized by most.

Tom Benson may in fact be a greedy man; I wouldn't know. But his franchise is an invaluable boon to the state's economy. And while I do not think that the state can afford to pay for the Saints out of the general fund, it would be nice if our esteemed elected officials could come up with a creative solution like other states have done. The numerous benefits of having an NFL team certainly outweigh the cost of keeping one. Therefore the question should not be can we afford to keep the Saints, but rather can we afford to lose them?

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