Saints to meet with LSU on hosting home games

New Orleans Saints officials are meeting Tuesday with LSU officials about having the Saints play upcoming games at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Saints official Greg Bensel told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“LSU has been gracious and enthusiastic regarding hosting our future games, and we very much appreciate their partnership,” Bensel said. “We have also discussed the possibility of moving our home games to LSU with the NFL and they are aware of our exploring this option.

“Obviously, our overwhelming preference is to play our games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with partial fan attendance, but there has been no indication from the city on when, or if, this might be approved.”

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has repeatedly declined to allow the Saints to have limited-capacity fan attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic. She issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying: “While the Saints’ request for a special exception to the city’s Covid-19 guidelines remains under consideration, allowing 20K people in an indoor space presents significant public health concerns. At present, no NFL stadium in the country with a fixed-roof facility is allowing such an exception. We will continue to monitor the public health data, but cannot set an artificial timeline for how and when conditions may allow for the kind of special exemption being requested.”

LSU had previously announced that it will have fans this season at 25% capacity at Tiger Stadium, which has a capacity of 102,321.

New Orleans is currently in Phase 3.1 of its reopening, allowing bars to reopen and restaurants to allow 75% seating capacity inside earlier this month. Thus far, the city’s restrictions have been stricter than those of the rest of the state.

New Orleans has detailed plans to possibly loosen restrictions in Phases 3.2 and 3.3 later this month — but fans Saints games would still not be allowed because they are considered “large gatherings.”

The idea of the Saints playing “home games” in Baton Rouge would not be unprecedented. They also hosted four games in Tiger Stadium in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when the team moved its practice operations to San Antonio and also hosted three games in the Alamodome.

The Saints also played preseason games in Baton Rouge early in the franchise’s history.

A growing number of NFL teams have started to allow fans at home games in a limited capacity in recent weeks. However, as of last week, slightly more than half of the league had still not announced plans to allow fans into games.

The Saints did allow 750 family members of players and staff into each of their last two home games in the Superdome as a “test run” for what they hope will be a wider opening in the near future. Their next home game is scheduled for Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers at noon CT on Oct. 25. After that, they don’t return home again until Week 10 — Nov. 15 against the San Francisco 49ers.

ESPN’s Mike Triplett contributed to this report.

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