> NEW ORLEANS — Pastor and author Rick Warren has signed a deal to purchase the New Orleans Saints football franchise for $320 million from current owner Tom Benson, and has pledged to pour his time and energy into helping the city and team rebuild.
“This is the start of the Saints’ turnaround,” a Warren spokesman said. “America is going to see what a purpose-driven team can accomplish.”
The Saints have desperately needed a home and a vision since Hurricane Katrina devastated their season. They were keenly disappointed with the NFL’s response to their plight.
But Warren took an immediate interest in the team on visits to the damaged city, and he surprised his church in November when several Saints players joined him onstage. The church prayed for the team, which won its next game. Warren took this as confirmation of his plan to buy the franchise.
“I like the guy,” says one player who met Warren at a practice in San Antonio. “I was skeptical about a minister owning a team, but he wants to win, just like us.”
The centerpiece of Warren’s purchase will be Purpose-Driven Field, to be located just north of New Orleans. Stadium construction will create thousands of jobs for the local economy, and will give Warren’s ministry a foothold in the South, where he hopes to gain greater influence. During the week, Purpose-Driven Field will host conferences, outreaches and short-term missions groups stopping over on their way to Central America, or helping to rebuild New Orleans. Warren already refers to the New Orleans location as Saddleback South, friends say.
The Saints will now operate differently than most NFL teams. Players will be required to go through the 40 Days of Purpose program. Alcohol will not be served in the stadium, and every attendee will receive a copy of the Purpose-Driven Life. Halftime shows will offer “edgy, cool” evangelism and worship concerts, says a spokesman. Warren intends to be as visible as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who often walks the sidelines during games.
“We’re marching into New Orleans,” Warren told partner churches recently to rousing applause.•
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i’ll be looking forward to the “edgy, cool” worship concerts myself.
hopefully Chris Tomlin and his 3-day GQ scruff will show up.