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Saints Q&A with COO Ben Hales on Mercedes-Benz Superdome renovation, loss of seats 

Saints senior vice president and chief operating officer shares update on renovations and relocation process


What is the overall purpose of the current Mercedes-Benz Superdome renovations?

The primary purpose of this multiple-phase renovation is to extend the viability of the Superdome for years to come. It is a modernization and reinvestment in the building. The goal of the renovation is to improve the fans' game day experience. Keeping the building viable and current while listening to our fans' needs is the team's focus. In addition, the building is iconic as a host venue for some of the world's largest sporting events, all of which benefit our city, state and region economically. With that, many of the changes being made were done in consultation with those governing major sporting events to ensure we continue to attract events such as the Super Bowl, College Football Playoff Championships, NCAA Final Four and WrestleMania, to name a few. The converse to these renovations would likely require building a new stadium. Neither the team nor fans want a new stadium, a point that has been made clear by more than 85% polled regarding this renovation by ASM Global. Fans, season ticket holders and non-fans were included in that statewide survey conducted in 2019.

What are the primary areas of focus in the renovation?

The renovations will address significant fundamental issues that are a natural result of the building's age while keeping in mind the current landscape and evolution of modern sports facilities. Critical infrastructure including plumbing, electrical, cooking/food service capacity, fan ingress/egress/vertical transportation, are the primary areas of focus, all of which directly affect the fan's game day experience.

Will there be a reduction in seats because of the infrastructure changes?

Yes, unfortunately. These changes are only possible with major alterations to the original design of the building including elimination of ramps, widening of concourses and other structural changes. These changes, unfortunately, will result in the loss of some seats in the building. It is not lost on our organization that Saints seats are very personal and many have a family history associated with them. Losing those seats is very upsetting to those affected and our ticket department and account representatives will work with each season ticket holder to the best ability, treating them with the utmost sincerity and understating of what this means to them.

Are there any other fan-facing areas that will see significant changes?

Yes. An objective is to increase the number of ADA seats and locations of ADA seats wherever possible and feasible from an engineering/construction perspective. This change has been part of the long-term modernization of the building. The addition of ADA seating areas has had an impact on the number of seats being lost.

Were any other areas where seats were lost due to an increase in premium seating or suites?

Relatively few of the seats were removed from the seating bowl to create new premium seating and those were specific to the lower end zone areas and in the creation of the field suites. No seats were removed to create SRO (standing room only) seating sections. These are being created in areas in which adding fixed seating is not feasible but do have views of the field and will create a new option for fans to attend games. It is a $150 million investment the Saints are making in this multi-phase renovation of the Dome, in addition to the team's $25 million investment in new electronic video boards in 2018 is the primary focus to keep the building viable for generations. While a relatively small amount of premium inventory has been created, the loss of seats and other investments in fan amenities will not result in a significant revenue increase in the building.

During this process, it has been very evident that impacted fans have had frustrations relative to the lack of a definitive plan or communication, what does the team say about this?

Our primary focus is our fans and making sure we properly and effectively communicate with them. Fans that were impacted by seat loss were notified based on the information provided to us by the stadium's architects. These seats were identified by the architects in their initial planning and surveying and we wanted to be as proactive as possible in reaching out to impacted fans so that we could begin the process of relocating as quickly as possible. While we will defer to the architects on the exact process for determining seat loss, we understand that these things remain fluid as they go through the shop drawing and construction process. There is an evolution and a refinement in their specificity while identifying existing built conditions. As with most renovations, adjustments to plans are necessary and could only be discovered once the demolition process and build back process is completed. This process has caused a delay in our ability to begin the relocation process. Now that it has been completed, we will begin reaching out directly to additionally impacted fans to begin the relocation process.

You mentioned that this is a very fluid situation as construction and demolition continue to determine what seats are impacted, what is the latest on the recent section of seats lost?

As design progresses from conceptual through all levels of detail and refinement and into the construction phase, the architects have informed us that some additional seats may get impacted once construction is complete and field verification of the seating areas can be performed. If this occurs, we will immediately reach out to these season ticket holders to discuss the relocation process and offer refunds for any payments made. These adjustments have also resulted in some seats scheduled to be removed to be restored. These season ticket holders will also be contacted immediately so that they can renew their seat locations, if desired.

What is the relocation process and what happens to season ticket holders who cannot be relocated this season?

All impacted season ticket holders will be contacted directly by the Saints customer service team. The opportunity to relocate will be offered to fans based on seniority/tenure. If new locations offered do not work for the season ticket holder or we are not able to offer new locations this season, the season ticket holder will be placed on a newly created Priority Waiting List. No tickets will be offered to the general waiting list or for other sale until first offered to those affected season ticket holders on the Priority Waiting List. This process will continue in order to accommodate all fans impacted by the renovations. Fans on the Priority Waiting List will continue to enjoy all season ticket holder benefits and privileges.

They will also receive the ability to purchase any individual game tickets that become available (visiting team, player, League, Network holds, etc.) at season ticket holder prices as well as the ability to purchase any available playoff tickets at season ticket holder prices.

In addition, the team is working with other partners to create additional benefits and opportunities for those on the Priority Waiting List.

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