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Ernst Lieb, chief executive of Mercedes-Benz USA, said the city’s successful rebuilding after Katrina was another major factor in agreeing to the deal.
“I don’t think three or four years ago, Mercedes-Benz would have thought about going into a relationship like this,” he said.
A naming-rights deal had been an elusive goal for the Superdome, one of the few readily recognizable stadiums without one. Lieb said Saints owner Tom Benson’s wife, Gayle, came up with the idea of approaching Mercedes-Benz. Her husband is a longtime owner of Mercedes-Benz dealerships in New Orleans and San Antonio. Serious talks began in April when Benson visited Germany.
“We look forward to this deal doing great things for the city, this stadium and the New Orleans Saints,” Tom Benson said.
In addition to a familiar football venue, the stadium was the site of a 1987 visit by Pope John Paul II and the 1988 Republican National Convention.
Built at the edge of New Orleans’ business district, the stadium has a place in local lore, which holds it was built on the site of a former cemetery. In voodoo-conscious New Orleans, some speculated that was one reason why the Saints didn’t have a winning record from their first season in 1967 until 1987. Their break-out season came after Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass before thousands on the stadium floor.
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