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John DeShazier: New Orleans contingent feels good about its Super Bowl chances

NFL owners will award 2018 game Tuesday

Atlanta – "We feel good."

It's not a bombastic statement, not one born of or filled with hubris, not one that's spoken with an air of superiority.

But there's a pretty good reason that Jay Cicero, president/CEO of Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, uttered the words when asked about Tuesday, the day the New Orleans contingent will stand before NFL owners at the league's spring meeting in Atlanta, and make their pitch to have New Orleans serve as host city for the Super Bowl in 2018.

Namely, Cicero said that the last four times that the Saints and New Orleans have combined forces and bid to host the game, they've earned the right to do so. The last three of those bids have occurred with Cicero helping lead the charge as a member of the presenting committee.

New Orleans has hosted 10 Super Bowls, tied with Miami for most in the 48-year history of the game.

The other finalists are Minneapolis and Indianapolis.

"We feel good," Cicero said. "But we know the competition is as stiff as can be, and maybe bigger than ever, for a number of different reasons.

"First of all, Minneapolis is opening a new stadium in 2016 and the NFL has traditionally awarded Super Bowls to new stadium cities. And Indianapolis hosted in 2012, and we think they are putting up a very aggressive bid. They desperately want it back.

"The competition is fierce. It's going to take everything for us to win it, so we're going all out."

The Saints' role also clearly is defined. Franchise owner Tom Benson, who has been at the helm of the team for half of New Orleans' 10 Super Bowls, will serve as the committee's closer to his fellow owners.

"The team plays a vital, vital role in every aspect of the bid as well as the event," Cicero said. "Mr. Benson, (owner/vice chairman of the board) Rita Benson LeBlanc, (president) Dennis Lauscha, (senior vice president of marketing and business development) Ben Hales, and (senior vice president of sales) Mike Stanfield have been partnered with the Sports Foundation on every step of the bid process.

"Now, we've got the final pitch on Tuesday and perhaps one of the most important pieces to that is Mr. Benson gets five minutes to speak to the owners, right after our pitch. His sales ability is important to the whole process.

"We get 15 minutes to pitch to the owners, we have five people allowed in the room (including LSED chairman Ron Forman and New Orleans CAO Andy Kopplin), and we have two speakers. Our speakers are Rod West, CAO of Entergy Corporation, and Stephen Perry, the CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. Good combination."

New Orleans, in fact, has presented the right combination on 10 previous occasions. On Tuesday, the Saints and the city will learn if they again have the right touch, for the 11th time.

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