Where will they play?

As Hurricane Ivan spins toward the Gulf Coast powered by 140 mph winds, all the 49ers really know is that they will be playing a football game Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. The question is where. And, Niners coach Dennis Erickson said Wednesday, "That's a good question." The Saints already have evacuated the Big Easy, and nobody really can say yet whether the game will take place as scheduled at the Louisiana Superdome or be moved elsewhere.

The Saints moved their base operations this week to San Antonio as they prepare for Sunday's game. Depending on the severity of the expected damage in New Orleans from the storm, which is expected to hit with full impact in the region tonight and Thursday, the game could be moved to a location that has not yet been specified.

Erickson said the NFL office will make any decisions on whether the game will be moved from New Orleans. None of those decisions will be made until after the storm hits.

"As far as we know, we are (still playing in New Orleans)," Erickson said. "You have to wait and see what happens. The league is taking care of that. What they've told us is that they will see what happens and go from there."

As far as what the other options may be, Erickson said, "I don't know. I don't think they will tell us that. My guess would be playing in a different location. That's what I would guess."

From Alamo Stadium in San Antonio, where the Saints practiced Wednesday and will conduct their operations until at least Friday, New Orleans coach Jim Haslett said he expected the game still was on for New Orleans.

"I'm not a weatherman, but I think we'll be there," Haslett said. "But everything will be based off on how bad the city is hit."

Haslett said league and New Orleans officials have discussed different contingency plans and different scenarios that could take place if the game needs to be moved.

"Yeah, we've got plans for everything," he said. "We've discussed everything. We have discussed moving the game, playing it later, we've discussed everything. The number one deal with us and the number one factor is that we wanted to make sure more than anything is that our families and friends were taken care of first before we came over here. Then, we came over here because our second priority was to make sure we are prepared to play the game."

Saints officials already have said they aren't interested in moving the game to San Francisco or a neutral site, although the NFL could take the latter decision out of their hands if necessary. Re-scheduling the game isn't an option since the Saints' bye week is Oct. 31 and the Niners' bye week comes a week earlier.

The brunt of the storm is expected to pass through New Orleans well before Sunday, but the aftermath could leave it difficult for there to be a game at the downtown Superdome, as far as logistics are concerned. That is why there's a legitimate chance the game will be moved, though the NFL has yet to suggest any alternative sites.

Erickson, who has been though a devastating hurricane before when he lost his home in Miami during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, said the Niners' travel plans are status quo until they hear anything different.

"Right now, we're planning on leaving Friday for New Orleans," Erickson said. "If they tell us to go someplace else, we'll go to someplace else."

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