Saints say poor NFLPA report card didn’t spark cafeteria renovations

It doesn’t sound like the New Orleans Saints’ leadership team was surprised to receive a poor grade on their team’s food options, but that doesn’t mean recent NFL Players Association report cards prompted extensive renovations to the cafeteria. The Saints were graded with an F in both 2023 and 2022 for their food/cafeteria offerings. So it’s easy to speculate that ongoing cafeteria construction (which is sending the team’s 2024 training camp to California) could be a response to that performance.

Team president Dennis Lauscha tackled that topic in a recent press conference with local media, in his opening statement: “And the truth of the matter is, I’ll cut through it all: We’re doing this because we want to have the best facilities in the National Football League.”

Lauscha described a series of phases to renovations that began with the locker room, training room, meeting rooms, and other areas in the team headquarters like the draft room. Now it’s time to work on the cafeteria and indoor practice facility. So when did those plans first come into motion?

“2019, we started planning for the cafeteria,” said Maureen Clary, a consultant and broker associate with Corporate Realty, an agency that Saints owner Gayle Benson purchased back in 2021.

Saints chief financial officer Ed Lang chimed in: “I have a full set of plans up in my office, literally the full set that’s dated April of 2020. So those were finished in April 2020. That was COVID. We were actually going to start this project a lot earlier, and then COVID hit.”

“We couldn’t get the steel for it,” Lauscha added, with Clary explaining that the pandemic’s logistical hurdles limited access to both raw materials and complex equipment like power transformers. He continued, “It’s coming together now. I mean this with an abundance of respect for any grade that’s out there, but this definitely isn’t why we’re doing what we’re doing here. We really do want to have the best facility that we can. Even when that grade came out, if we said let’s start then, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

It’s an ambitious plan. The Saints are increasing the cafeteria from 6,000 square feet to 14,000, with the kitchen scaling up from just 1,000 square feet to 4,000. They’re placing an emphasis on fresh food storage and new amenities like carving stations, smoothie bars, and a DEXA body scan (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) to help players track their body fat content as part of the nutrition program.

On top of that, the Saints are expanding the dining area to include outdoor seating and an overlook to the indoor practice facility. Work is expected to be finished by November, though Lauscha is hopeful to have everything in its place by September. Either way, the Saints plan on returning to New Orleans for their 2025 training camp.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire