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Saints, GNOSF reel in the big one

Goodell: 'We're just thrilled to be able to come back to New Orleans'

Atlanta - In the open field, with no opposition in sight and cradling a Super Bowl bid, the only way the New Orleans Saints and Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation couldn't have scored on Wednesday would have been to trip, fall and fumble on their own.

The Saints, and the GNOSF, don't trip, fall or fumble when it comes to Super Bowl bids.

Thus, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stepped to a podium in a meeting room at The Whitley Hotel and made official what unofficially had been "official" for a week: That the Saints and GNOSF would be hosts of Super Bowl LVIII in 2024.

"We know, in particular, how important this would be to (late owner) Tom Benson and we're just thrilled to be able to come back to New Orleans," Goodell said. "We know that would make Tom very happy."

Indeed, Tom Benson would have taken great pleasure and pride in bringing back the game to New Orleans, which will host its 11th Super Bowl overall and eighth in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Tom Benson was one of New Orleans' most ardent supporters.

but, too, he would have been pleased that his wife, Gayle Benson, now sole owner of the Saints and New Orleans Pelicans, led the charge in helping secure the game in New Orleans for the first time since 2013.

The Saints and Arizona, which was awarded the Super Bowl in 2023, were unopposed in their respective bids. Still, New Orleans submitted a presentation that unanimously was lauded as an impressive one.

"We've had so many people working in this and it turned out to be so beautifully done," Gayle Benson said. "It was just a perfect experience and I'm glad we got it and we're in. Now, all we need to do is win some games.

"New Orleans is a very special city. It's unique. It's different than any other city that we have around. We just have so many things to offer: the food, the music, the culture, the hotels - we've got it all. It should be (in New Orleans) every year."

The successful bid this year ended a two-bid drought in which New Orleans was bypassed in lieu of cities that were constructing new stadiums. The last time it happened was 2014, when Minneapolis was awarded the most recent Super Bowl, LII, which was played this year.

The NFL has ditched the old process of having cities bid against one another in favor of the new, streamlined process of exclusivity.

"Everything in the room went absolutely awesome," said Sam Joffray, senior vice president/communications of the GNOSF. "Mrs. Benson nailed it, there's a great vibe and excitement about New Orleans coming back and between (Saints president) Dennis (Lauscha) and Mrs. Benson, it was an absolute home run of a presentation.

"The last two bid cycles were positioning New Orleans as a popular host. Every time we get a chance to go to the podium and make a case for New Orleans for a Super Bowl, we're going to do it. Even if you're up against the stadiums which are the ultimate housewarming gift from one NFL owner to another - you kind of know that they have that working in their favor.

"But those past two bid cycles reinforced that message from New Orleans, in that we're hungry and we always want it whenever we're invited to bid, and this was no exception. So I think those years paid off.

"The fact that we were invited to bid, exclusively, shows the appreciation and the recognition for New Orleans as a host city. And I think it also clears the path in the future that when a new stadium does have an interest in hosting a Super Bowl, that they have a process that's a little more streamlined and you're not putting other cities through that competitive disadvantage."

Mrs. Benson said that getting the Super Bowl also was another step in keeping alive Tom Benson's legacy.

"This time was a little different because my husband wasn't here," she said. "But it was good. I was a little upset when I saw his picture because it's so real and it feels like he's here. I know he's here. It's just a little sad that he's not with us.

"He'd have been jumping up and down. I don't know if you all saw the video (in the presentation), but it was great. His suspenders were coming off, he was so excited.

"The thing that I really wanted to do is continue Tom Benson's legacy. That's my main goal. I want to keep his memory alive."

Wednesday's touchdown was another score.

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