Doug Thornton, regional vice president of SMG, which operates the Superdome and nearby New Orleans Arena, told the state House Appropriations Committee last week that the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District is facing a $26 million revenue shortfall over the next two years due to incentive payments to the professional sports teams that call New Orleans home.

Thornton said lagging hotel tax collections means the district will be hard-pressed to make the annual payments to the National Football League’s New Orleans Saints and the National Basketball Association’s New Orleans Hornets.

Thornton said the Legislature may have to appropriate funds to cover an expected $6.4 million shortfall for fiscal 2008 and include $19.5 million in additional funding for the stadium district in the state’s fiscal 2009 budget.

The existing 10-year, $186 million contract with the Saints calls for the Louisiana to pay $20 million to the team by July 1 and $23.5 million a year through the 2010 season. The district must also pay the Hornets between $1.7 million and $5 million a year, depending on attendance, through 2012 to retain the team.

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