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NEW ORLEANS - July is not the kindest month for New Orleans.

With temperatures in the 90s and humidity at the saturation point, the tourist crop, which means so much to the city, thins out.

That adds excitement to today's ArenaBowl that goes far beyond sports fans here.

"It's fantastic," said Jay Cicero, of the New Orleans Sports Foundation. "It's a great piece of business for New Orleans at a very slow time for our hospitality business."

For a city that has raked in the big paydays associated with the Super Bowl, about $290 million, and the NCAA Final Four, about $100 million, the estimated $15 million in spending the ArenaBowl is expected to spark looks small.

But Cicero said, cash is only part of the payoff.

"The exposure associated with this and the notoriety of hosting a league championship is tremendous," Cicero said. "There will be national and international broadcasts associated with it. And that keeps New Orleans in the spotlight when we need it."

The league asked to get out of the third year of its three-year contract with Las Vegas so it could bring the championship game to New Orleans, showing solidarity with the local Arena League team, the VooDoo, and helping the city's recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

The VooDoo suspended operations for the 2006 season because of damage to the city and the New Orleans Arena, where they play, from the Aug. 29, 2005, storm.

It was then that the AFL's Board of Directors met and unanimously agreed that it would hold its championship game in the Crescent City when it was "economically and logistically feasible."

The VooDoo returned this season, and set a league record becoming the first team in league's 21-year history to sell out the entirety of their home games on season tickets.

Today, the Columbus Destroyers and the San Jose SaberCats meet on the VooDoo's home field in front of a sellout crowd.

It's the first sellout of a neutral site for the Arena Football League's championship game, with the tickets snapped up almost nine weeks before the game.

The 2005 game drew 10,822 and the 2006 ArenaBowl had a crowd of 13,476. The New Orleans Arena has a capacity of 16,021, but will need some reconfiguring for the game.

Because of the small allotment of tickets to the teams playing the game, most of the fans will be local, said Mary Beth Romig, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"It puts a few heads in beds," Romig said. "But it also brings the city corporate exposure and the league is really doing some fantastic things around town."

There was a Styx concert Saturday night. Additionally, players built a playground at an elementary school, and staged a mascot exhibition and an event for fans on game day, all of which benefited the city and residents, Romig said.

"This game re-establishes New Orleans' reputation as a championship city," said Bill Curl, spokesman for the New Orleans Arena.

ARENABOWL XXI

Who: Columbus Destroyers vs. San Jose SaberCats

Where: New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, La.

When: Today, 3 p.m.

TV: ABC-Ch. 6

Notable: Glenn Hills alum Ken Jones is a star defensive lineman for the Destroyers

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