The story of the Mercedes-Benz Louisiana Superdome is a remarkable one. As the site of many landmark historic events, it was born during the first great era of domed stadiums in the 1970s but is the only one from the era that remains viable. What is even more extraordinary is that the completely renovated stadium today stands as one of the top 10 nationally, yet the cost to modernize it was a fraction of building a new facility.
"What visitors will see in the Superdome is major, transformational change," SMG Senior Vice President Doug Thornton says. "After Katrina, we had a strategic vision to recreate the building into an ultra-modern stadium that would accomplish numerous objectives, including re-igniting a major economic engine, securing the Saints long-term, and returning an icon to the New Orleans skyline." The multi-phase project cost a total of $336 million, of which $156 million came from FEMA. Compared to other new state-of-the-art stadiums like Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis (2008 - $720 million), Cowboys Stadium (2009 - $1.3 billion), and the MetLife Stadium (2010 - $1.6 billion), the new 2011 Superdome was a true bargain.
"From the beginning, we've had a great team who planned strategically worked hard and fast." Thornton says. "The work was completed on time and under budget, and since reopening in 2006, we've had no interruption in events, business has been excellent, and we're adding more events every day. It has proven to be a great return on investment for the public."
Since the Mercedes-Benz Superdome reopened in 2006, the events held at the facility have had a total fiscal impact of $4.1 billion on the Louisiana economy, according to a study by the University of New Orleans's Division of Business Economic Research.
Through the extensive rebuilding and upgrades to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the facility is poised to remain a viable home to the New Orleans Saints and other annual events for many years to come. By 2025, the end of the current Saints lease, every dollar spent on Mercedes-Benz Superdome repairs and enhancements will return 58 to the state.
"After Katrina, many people counted out the Mercedes-Benz Superdome," says Ron Forman, Chairman of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, the government appointed board charged with overseeing operations of the Superdome and surrounding area. "But with this incredible rebuilding project we put a stake in the ground that told the world we're going to be here for a long, long time. This was money well spent."
Spectacular new upgrades inside the Superdome that began after in 2010 have made it to a state-of-the art and modern facility. As one of the busiest multi-purpose stadiums since it opened, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will continue to provide future generations a showcase for sports and entertainment.
The post-Katrina improvements have sustained the Dome's legendary history while offering the fans all of the advantages of new design and the latest technology. These spectacular upgrades have transformed the iconic facility into one of the finest in all of sports.
New Private Luxury Suites
A total of 15 private box suites have been added to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome's 300 level, increasing the building's total number of luxury suites to 152.
New Press Box
A new state-of-the-art press box was built on the 700 Terrace Level, with working space for 200 sportswriters and 12 booths for coaches, radio broadcasters, and team operations.
New Team Store
The Saints team store was relocated to Gate B, upgraded, improved with high-end merchandising fixtures and finishes, and expanded by 3,650 square feet.
New Saints Locker Room
The Saints team locker room was upgraded and expanded by 5,000 square feet, doubling its size. An new modern media interview area was also added to the space.
New Sideline Seating The sideline seating on the Plaza Level has been completely revamped, moving patrons closer to the action, with improved sightlines. The new lower bowl seating units have added 3,400 prime seats up close to the team benches. In addition, 5,000 seats have been replaced in the Plaza Level with new club seats.
Expanded Plaza Level Concourse
At key points on both sides, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome's Plaza Level concourse has been widened by 50 feet, providing better visitor access to other new improvements, including four additional permanent concession stands, four new permanent souvenir stands, four new restrooms (adding 75 new women's stalls), and 131 additional ADA seats, enhancing that seating element. The new concourse has all-new flooring, lighting, murals, color scheme and signage. Three new elevators have been incorporated providing additional vertical transportation from the 100 Plaza level to the 500 Terrace level. In addition all existing elevator cab interiors have been refurbished.
New Premium Bunker Club Lounges
Located below the reconfigured Plaza Level stands on field level at the 50-yard line, the two new 7,500-square-foot premium bunker club lounges feature private entry directly from the parking garage, an upscale environment for private events, and high-end amenities including two full service bars per club, lounge & table seating, television monitors and four restrooms each (adding 12 new men's stalls and 60 new women's stalls).
At both the Gate A and Gate C exterior Plaza areas, the entry ramp area has been reshaped and widened to provide improved traffic flow and easier access to the adjacent areas of the Plaza Level. A new dynamic LED lighting system replaces the former "wash lights" to illuminate the exterior of the Superdome. This energy efficient system will allow for unlimited color and lighting patterns that can be customized specifically for every event.
From Katrina's devastation the Superdome rekindled hope for Louisiana
When Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 people sought protection inside the Superdome. The stadium served as refuge of last resort for those who had no means of leaving during a mandatory evacuation of the city. If not for the Superdome many of them might have perished in the frightening conditions outside. The wind ripped open holes in the Superdome's roof, and water poured inside, causing massive damage.
Bringing the Superdome back to life after Hurricane Katrina tried to rip it apart began days after the storm had passed. SMG Senior Vice President Doug Thornton assembled a team of remediation experts, contractors and architects and led them on a flashlight tour to see if the big building could be restored.
Some doubts about the future of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome were expressed. But within weeks the experts said the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was still structurally sound. Then the work of cleaning, drying and restoring it began.
What followed was the biggest stadium reconstruction project ever attempted in the U.S. Not only was it accomplished in record time, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was vastly improved. The teams and fans came back to a newer, brighter Superdome that symbolized the resolve of Louisianans to rebuild. The initial post-Katrina repairing and remodeling of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was accomplished in three phases over a period of four years. The ability to include major improvements during the construction work resulted in cost efficiency with minimum interruption to events.
After remediation work was finished in just five months, construction began on March 1, 2006. Thornton, Vice President of SMG, the Superdome's management company, directed 35 contractors and some 850 workers, most of whom toiled seven days a week through the hot summer. Less than six months later, the Superdome was remarkably "football ready."
A display of photographs in the 200-level lobby just above Gate A chronicles the storm and the remarkable rebuilding achievement. When the doors opened for the first time after the storm, the Saints defeated the Atlanta Falcons 23-3 before a Monday Night Football national TV audience. It was Sept. 25, 2006, a date clearly etched in the history of a city that cherishes its rich past. The reopening of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was heralded internationally as a symbol of Southeastern Louisiana's rebirth and a major step in revitalizing the area's economy. The iconic facility became Louisiana's most recognizable landmark.
The first phase included replacing the outer surface of the entire 9.7-acre roof; installing a brilliant new video board-scoreboard-message board system; completely remodeling 38 permanent concessions stands and all three kitchens; and upgrading 8,000 Club Level sideline seats and 4,000 Box Suite seats.
Phase 2 began after the 2006 football season and included finishing all 137 stately suites and four luxurious Club Lounges; adding giant new windows in the Lounges; installing a new state-of-the-art technology infrastructure throughout the building; and completely upgrading the Dome's in-house TV production facilities. The additions of two new escalators provide direct access to the Club Level concourse.
Work on Phase 3, a new aluminum outer skin for the entire building, began in February, 2009 and was completed in October 2010. The 16,000 shiny new bronze-hued aluminum panels replaced the original skin all around the exterior of the big structure and restored the building's original color with a new custom anodized fade-proof finish. The 400,000 square feet of aluminum was specifically researched, developed, tested and manufactured for the Mercedes-Benz Superdome project.
Post-Katrina Timeline – Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Aug. 29, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina strikes New Orleans. During the week after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city, the Superdome serves as a refuge of last resort for approximately 30,000 evacuees, and the Arena is converted into a triage center.
Mar. 1, 2006 – Remediation is complete; Dome construction begins. After drying out and removal of trash and damaged property, work begins on repairs and improvements to the Mercedes-benz Superdome.
Mar. 4, 2006 – Arena reopens with concert. The Arena sustained minimal damage from Hurricane Katrina, reopening 187 days after the storm hit. The first event features Placido Domingo, the New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra and the New Orleans Opera Chorus.
Sept. 25, 2006 – Superdome reopens; Saints play on Monday Night Football. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is back in business. A sellout crowd of 70,003 celebrates the Saints' 23-3 win over the Atlanta Falcons while a national TV audience watches on ESPN's Monday Night Football. The biggest reconstruction project in the history of American Stadiums is completed in less than seven months.
Jan. 3, 2007 – Allstate Sugar Bowl returns to the Superdome. No. 4-ranked SEC West champion LSU defeats no. 11 Notre Dame 41-14 before a sell-out crowd of 77,781.
July 5-7, 2007 – Essence Festival returns. The Essence Festival, a three-day event that is one of the largest multicultural gatherings in the nation, comes back to its home in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after a year in Houston, TX. Dubbed a "party with a purpose," the festival features name entertainment on the Superdome's main floor and in all five club rooms, dubbed "Superlounges," on three successive nights.
Aug. 10, 2007 – Phase 2 of Mercedes-Benz Superdome construction completed. The Saints play the Buffalo Bills in a preseason home game. Work on Phase 2 of Superdome construction is complete; most of it upgrades to the 137 box suites and four 20,000 square foot ballrooms.