The New Orleans Saints could be playing games in front of fans soon. However, it won't be at Mercedes-Benz Superdome as the team is talking with officials from LSU to host games at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Saints official Greg Bensel told Adam Schefter of ESPN. Saints fans have been prohibited from watching games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
"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." Bensel also said that the "overwhelming preference is to play our games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with partial fan attendance." However, there's no timetable on when that can be approved.
With LSU playing games on Saturday and the Saints playing (mostly) on Sunday, it would be an easy transition. The NFL has supported the Saints to host fans, but New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell will not allow the Saints home stadium to have limited fans. In the meantime. More and more NFL stadiums are hosting fans, and onlookers expected that number to increase as the season rolls on.
"We anticipate more cities coming online in the next few weeks, while stadiums that have hosted fans will increase their capacity as the season progresses," NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said. "We have shared best practices from the clubs that have hosted fans safely and responsibly. We also engaged a company that tracked COVID[-19] cases in the local area in time periods before and after fans attending games. There's been no indication that NFL games with fans are having an impact on daily COVID case trends at the local or state level."
The Saints had "fans" at their last two home games in the Superdome. 750 family members of the players and staff were invited to see the Saints play as a "test run" for what they hope will be a bigger opening in the coming weeks. Their next home game is scheduled for Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 25.
"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," Cantrell said in a statement. "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."