Sides trying to keep team in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS -- Representatives from the New Orleans Saints and the state met for the fifth time Thursday as they try to negotiate a new deal for the team that would keep it in Louisiana.

Neither side released any details of the meeting. Both parties have said they would not discuss the talks until there was something substantive to report.

The meeting comes three days after team owner Tom Benson said the positive tone of the talks had prompted him to extend discussions beyond his previous March 1 deadline.

The state wants to replace an agreement reached under the administration of former Gov. Mike Foster, which has forced Louisiana to borrow money to make the annual payments called for by the deal. Those payments will escalate to $23.5 million in the last years of the 10-year deal, which took effect in 2002.

The Saints want a long-term deal and so far have dropped one significant demand, with Benson saying he is willing to stay in a renovated Superdome rather than require a new stadium. The sticking point is expected to be Gov. Kathleen Blanco's demand that the team bear some of the costs of renovations or accept lower cash subsidies after renovations are complete.