The New Orleans Saints host the Chicago Bears in the 2-7 matchup in the NFC Playoffs on Sunday. The Saints have homefield advantage, but what is that without fans in the stands? Sean Payton was asked about that today and gave a very interesting answer, saying that he had suggested the team test and quarantine 50,000 fans in a hotel so the Saints would have the "safest Superdome known to man."
If you think about this for even a minute, as we here at The Big Lead have this morning, it might be the most insane thing anyone has suggested during the entire pandemic. What Payton is proposing is both a logistical nightmare and one of the craziest wastes of money imaginable.
Now, New Orleans has the space to do this with about 40,000 hotel rooms in and around the city. Let's for just a moment humor Payton and assume that fans would be attending the game in groups of four and they're all going to bunk together. That's 12,500 rooms needed. If everyone comes as a couple, that's 25,000 rooms. So the final number is somewhere in there because the NOLA does not have enough rooms for everyone to be in a single.
For a legitimate quarantine, like the NBA had when players entered the Orlando bubble, you would need around four nights for an effective quarantine while everyone is tested every day.
In this Times-Picayune article about poor hotel business in New Orleans during the pandemic, it says that the average price of a hotel room in the city is $162.97. Considering the circumstances and the large blocks of rooms that the Saints would need for 50,000, they could probably negotiate a reduced group rate. Let's just call it... $75 a night per room. That's a great deal, especially considering they're going to be there on the weekend.
With that generous room rate I quoted, that's $3.75 million for hotel rooms if it's four to a room. Plus the cost of food and testing. And if the fans were all in groups of two, that would be $7.5 million. Plus food and testing.
Oh, and there's the considerable amount of security you would need to make sure none of these people wander out the side door and head down to Bourbon Street or to any of the city's other fabulous, less pungent destinations. And you need to feed everyone for four days.
What happens to family members of these fans while they are away on a long weekend? Do any of them have jobs? Presumably, you could find 50,000 jobless, single, Saints fans, but then what kind of quarantine are you running here, Sean?
Then there is the thought of organizing buses to transport 50,000 people from a few dozen different hotels to and from the game. It's one thing if the Saints lose and they can just open the doors to the stadium on Sunday night and be done with them. What if the Saints, using this incredible home-field advantage, win and are hosting another game next weekend? You're not just letting these people go back to whatever lives they left behind.
This is what we do now.
These are professional Saints fans and they have to be tested and housed for another week. And if the Packers lose in the divisional round and you are suddenly hosting the NFC Championship game, you're not just going to allow Tom Brady or Russell Wilson to come to your house without 50,000 screaming maniacs who haven't had human contact with anyone outside their closest drinking buddies for the last 18 days there waiting, hoping to appear in a crowd shot as proof of life for their extended families in that life they left behind.
Even if with the extended stay, if they reduced the price to $50 a night per room, that's over $11 million just for the hotel rooms over the 18 days, which should actually start tonight, by the way. If the Saints are going to put Sean Payton's plan into action, they have just a few hours to put it all together. Hopefully, they have 50,000 tests ready for the intake tonight. And for the other people in those hotels who aren't planning on attending the NFC Championship in two and a half weeks, please wear your mask. We don't need some tourist messing up Sean Payton's foolproof and very scientific plan.
As Payton says, "it can be done." It just won't because it is absolutely insane. Monetarily. Logistically. It is an absolute nightmare, but hey, if he doesn't have too much on his plate today and wants to pay for the first block of hotel rooms, he is free to put this plan in motion himself and see how it goes.