Saints and Superdome commission at odds over renovation payments with the Super Bowl on the horizon

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The state commission that oversees the Superdome and the New Orleans Saints are at odds over the club's financial contributions to renovations scheduled for completion before the stadium hosts the next Super Bowl.

Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District board members were informed by staff at a board meeting Wednesday that the Saints have fallen $11.4 million behind on their share of payments toward the renovations since making their last installment in December.

Team executives, however, said later that the club has been withholding payment because of the commission's failure to provide requested “documentation.”

“We have reached out to the LSED on numerous occasions,” the Saints said in a written statement provided by Greg Bensel, the club's senior vice president of communications, broadcasting and community and government relations.

“When the satisfactory documentation is provided, a payment will immediately be authorized," the statement said. "Unfortunately, it was disappointing to hear the comments coming out of the LSED meeting today that the team is not acting in good faith, when, in fact, we feel the opposite is true.”

The Saints did not specify what documentation they were missing, and LSED officials stated on Wednesday night that they “do not understand what ‘documentation’ the Saints were referring to.”

“The Saints have not disputed a single invoice or requested any additional documentation relating to a pay request, including the current unpaid invoices totaling $11.4 million,” the LSED wrote in a response to the Saints' statement. “It would be helpful to the process if the Saints were more specific and identified what ‘documentation’ they are referencing.”

The amount of money at issue is small relative to the more than $530 million scope of the renovation project. But the team's delay in paying could cause cash flow problems and hinder the LSED's ability to complete remaining work — unless the state is able to find an additional funding source as a stop-gap measure until the impasse with the team is resolved.

The LSED, meanwhile, questioned whether the Saints might be delaying payment to gain leverage in negotiations for a new Superdome lease after the current one expires in 2030.

“That is a completely separate and independent agreement,” the LSED stated. “There is no legal basis to withhold payments under the Superdome Renovation Project Development Agreement based on efforts to negotiate a longer-term extension.”

Most renovations have been completed. About $58 million in work remains, with the Saints responsible for about $41 million. The Saints have committed to spending about $200 million toward Superdome renovations, the team statement said.

The project has included overhauls of stadium entrances, concourses and kitchens; installation of soaring new escalators; and the replacement of older ramps with newer staircases and elevators. Much of it was completed even before last season.

Remaining work is expected to be completed before the start of the 2024 NFL season, nearly six months before the nearly 50-year-old stadium hosts the Super Bowl on Feb. 9.