With a 24-11 vote, the Louisiana Senate approved the biggest part of a three-bill package to provide money for the Saints, Charlotte Hornets, and the downtown conference center.
The bill now returns to the House of Representatives for approval. The House passed the bill and sent it on to the Senate last week.
A big victory for the Saints, the bill approves the Saints' new Superdome lease and also provides funding for a new indoor practice facility. The facility will break ground in the next few weeks but won't be ready until the end of this season. The state will be paying for 75% of the cost of the indoor training facility, almost seven million dollars.
The facility will also be used as a practice facility for Sugar Bowl teams, future Super Bowls, and high school teams. The Saints will finally have an option for holding practice in inclement weather besides the Super Dome.
The inducement package, reached in agreement between the Saints and the governor's office last September, provides the team with a series of inducements, as much as $23.5 million in 2010.
The new Superdome lease is a 10-year agreement that provides an option for the Saints to leave the city after five years, but with a $75 million buyout payment.
The Saints have an agreement in place already to have a committee review the prospects of a new stadium. That blue-ribbon committee will submit a report to the state and the Saints in February of 2004.
The bill also provides funds to the Charlotte Hornets who are close to moving to the city. The Hornets are awaiting a final vote by the NBA owners to approve the franchise move. Money from this bill will go towards moving expenses and also for renovation of the New Orleans arena.