When your team wins its first Super Bowl, you'd like to think you can bask in the warm glow of that victory at least until the first home game...maybe even midway through the next season. But for 1200 Saints fans, all season ticket holders, it only took a few weeks to come down off of the high of a lifetime. Instead of gearing up for draft day, training camp, and that triumphant home opener when the Super Bowl banner gets unfurled, these die-hards learned their days in the dome may be over.
The fans, who call themselves "The Missing 1200", just learned that they will lose their seats as part of a plan to build a new press box in what was the Upper Terrace section of the Superdome. The old press box is getting yanked out to accommodate new, luxury suites for the high rollers. That means that everyone in the upper rows of section 635-645 of the Superdome, all of the fans who've laughed, cried, cheered, cussed and formed a family in their nosebleed hideaway, will be put on a wait list until other seats become available. Of course, there's no guarantee if that'll happen before the dome renovations are completed and new seats are added in 2013.
The Superdome renovations are part of a deal the team made with the state of Louisiana last year. In lieu of a new stadium, the State agreed to fund more than $80 million in dome upgrades. Considering how long the dome has been around and what it went through during Hurricane Katrina, many fans welcomed the renovations. (Of course, most fans welcome whatever it takes to keep Tom Benson from moving the team to L.A. or...(gasp!) San Antonio.) But few truly grasped the price of progress and the Saints, quite frankly, didn't help the situation by notifying affected fans of the change by phone, just one day before season ticket renewal notices were mailed to everyone else. Members of the grassroots group, The Missing 1200, say they have yet to get anything in writing.
These aren't bandwagon fans that just started following the team after the Saints made it to the NFC championship game in 2006. These displaced ticket holders represent the tried and true, "bleed black and gold" sect of the Who Dat Nation. Among them, a blogger named "Chef Who Dat" who comes up with cleverly titled game day recipes to fit each Saints' opponent, like "Blackened Falcon & Dirty Bird Rice." He hands menus out in his section, which he affectionately refers to as "Cafe 641" and he's done so for years now. But the Chef feels badly burned by the Saints latest move. He wrote on his blog:
"What disturbs me most is that the World Champion New Orleans Saints have not shown the sort of respect and gratitude for these 1,200 displaced Who Dats that they demonstrated in placing a thank you card in a recent issue of the Times-Picayune...By comparison, yesterday's phone conversation with the ticket office was a Garret Hartley kick to the groin."
Among the many concerns is that if these fans are eventually accommodated, they'll be split up and spread out across the dome. These section families or "dome neighbors" if you will, could find themselves plopped into some random section, perhaps with worse seats, and nowhere near the folks with whom they've formed such an inexplicable bond over the years. Sundays will never be the same.
Any reasonable fan understands that the Saints aren't "bad guys" for wanting upgrades to their home field, particularly following a championship season; however, it's a tough pill to swallow as a fan to imagine not being in the dome to cheer on your team when they play for the first time as Super Bowl champs. After years of loyalty, many of these fans feel like they got dumped quicker than one of Tiger Woods' mistresses. It seems the Saints could have found a more creative solution to the situation, by limiting the number of corporate seats, limiting the number of tickets distributed to the opposition, or creating "Jerry's World"-esque standing room only sections. Better yet, how about something as simple as advance warning to fans or perhaps even a follow up letter in the mail or an email? You can't tell me the guys who had the foresight to draft Marques Colston couldn't have come up with a better way to deal with this debacle.
The Missing 1200 have created their own website and Facebook group in the hopes of catching the team and the media's attention. They also sent a letter to the Saints on behalf of the 1200 affected fans pleading for an alternative method of dealing with the press box construction. They're also calling on fellow Saints blogs like Chicks in the Huddle and Canal Street Chronicles to join them in an email campaign. For these Saints fans, it seems their days of praying for a miracle didn't end when the Saints took home a Lombardi Trophy.
Follow Shaneika Dabney on Twitter: www.twitter.com/chicksndahuddle