The Louisiana Superdome was built with your tax dollars and is owned by the state of Louisiana, but the public has no idea how much money Mercedes-Benz is paying to have the arena renamed the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The New Orleans Saints has the authority to sell naming rights to the 73,000-seat stadium through the team’s lease, which runs through 2025.
The price for the 10-year naming-rights deal hasn’t been publicly disclosed. Gov. Bobby Jindal, who claims to support transparency, said the agreement is between the Saints and Mercedes-Benz, and that the automaker had asked not to have the price released to the public.
We disagree. We believe the taxpayers who funded construction of the Superdome have a right to know the particulars of how such an important public asset is being used.
The naming-rights deal has been touted as a way to free the state from the burden of subsidizing the Saints. Superdome manager Doug Thornton said that last year alone, the state paid $13.8 million to the Saints. With the Saints’ ability to get additional revenue from naming rights and recently enhanced amenities at the Superdome, the state’s payment to the Saints “goes from $13.8 million to zero,” Thornton said.
The elimination of direct state payments to the Saints is a promising development, but we have no way of knowing how Saints owner Tom Benson or Mercedes-Benz fared in this deal — or if the state might have gotten an even better deal.
That’s our enduring concern about such public-private partnerships. Too often, they involve the use of public resources without public transparency, leaving the taxpayer without a seat at the table.
But what else is new?