New Orleans has plenty going down

By By Stan Torgerson / guest columnist
March 14, 2002
For an adult to go to New Orleans is like a kid going to Orlando. The darndest amusement park is just waiting for you at the end of the journey.
Last weekend was particularly fun loving for a sports fan. Between Ricky Williams, the Charlotte Hornets and LSU football, there was no shortage of controversial subject matter on radio, TV or in print.
Take the Ricky Williams trade. The talk shows were full of pros and cons on the deal, about half and half. I agreed with some of their radio wisdom and disagreed with the rest. I agreed with the caller who said Williams was more fullback than running back. He really doesn't have running back moves, just muscle. I disagreed with those who said he was potentially an All-Pro and someone who could have led the Saints to the Super Bowl Apparently coach Jim Haslett and general manager Randy Mueller were on the same page with me. Haslett attempted to water down some of the heat by pointing out that in three years Williams had had only one run of over 30 yards and just seven of 20 yards or more.
Owner Tom Benson summed it up with this what-the-hell statement.
Hail and farewell, Ricky, from the boss.
Then there was the effort to convince New Orleans sports fans that pro basketball is a real live competitive activity that is worthy of the respect and the dollars it will take to move the Charlotte Hornets to the River City. If I have ever seen a silver lining glued to a make believe silk purse which is really just a sow's ear, that was it.
The team owners, testing the water so to speak, had asked New Orleans officials to insure their success by preselling 8,000 season tickets, 2,450 club seats and 54 luxury suites by Friday of this week or they might cancel the deal. As of last weekend they had taken deposits on 5,660 season tickets and 40 luxury suites leaving them 4,790 season tickets and 14 suites short of their goal.
In desperation the team and the 35 local steering committee members who are helping, sent out 50,000 pamphlets on season-ticket information. Last week they sold 650 season tickets and seven suites. Let's see now. At 650 ticket sales per week it would take over seven weeks to sell the necessary 4,790 season tickets and two weeks to sell the 14 high priced luxury accommodations to the high rollers.
Would it surprise you to know Hornets co-owner Ray Wooldridge was quoted as saying, "It's going to be a very busy week, but we're pleased."
About what?
I hate to sound like the skeptic I really am but New Orleans is not a basketball town, never has been, never will be. It lives and breaths the Saints football team and even so they don't sell out the Superdome unless the team is winning. If Charlotte's Hornets are moved to the Crescent City it won't be the last time they move.
The same day all this came out LSU raised football ticket prices. Not a little bit. A big bit. The same tickets that had been selling for $26 took over a 20 percent jump to $32. The increase will generate an extra $2,450,000. Of course it was only a coincidence that on Friday the LSU Board of Supervisors gave Tiger coach Lou Saban a $400,000 raise to substantially over a million dollars per season and committed to another one million dollar bonus if his team ever wins the national championship. Incidentally, at the same time they raised offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher to $175,000 and two other assistants to over $100,000.
The announcement was accompanied by a statement from athletic director Skip Bertman who said, so help me, "In reality, our price might seem high, but it really is not." There is a surcharge also, which raises the average price per ticket per game to $39.14 for a sideline ticket and $35.57 for end zone. That means a family of four can go to a game and sit on the sideline for about $160 each Saturday or about $1,000 for a six home game season, not counting transportation, meals and room if necessary. But remember, Bertman says the price is not really very high.
I love to visit Louisiana. It's more fun than Disney World Besides The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight lives there. At Disney World the gang would only be make believe. In New Orleans they're real.

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