Saturday, September 16, 2006

Superdome Ready for Football

A year since the landmark Louisiana Superdome was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, the facility is ready for some football. Next week, the New Orleans Saints will host the Atlanta Falcons in the 1.9 million square-foot stadium, marking the completion of a $185 million rebuilding effort by engineers, architects, and construction contractors.

The overhauling of the Superdome started with three months of review, testing and inspection to determine what needed fixing and to produce project plans and estimates. Then followed three months of simply clearing an estimated "5,000 tons of damaged and water-soaked carpeting, sheetrock, ceiling tiles, furniture and equipment and 3.8 million gallons of water from the dome and garages." Nuts and bolts rebuilding has been a 24/7 job for the last six months by a construction force of 850 workers with the biggest task being the repair of the near 10-acre roof.


According to architectural director Paul Griesemer, "This was a chance to be involved in something truly historic. Not just from a football stadium or NFL stadium, but the building was such a focal point of the human tragedy, and in the same regard, it's going to be the focal point of the rebuilding."

Most of the rebuilding money came from FEMA ($113 million) and a large amount ($41 million) was made available by refinancing existing debt. Additionally, the NFL kicked in $15 million and the state of Louisiana ponied up $13 million.

Somewhat fortuitously, plans for upgrade of the Superdome were being considered when Katrina hit thereby allowing for some renovation to occur concurrent with the rebuilding. Consequently, the Superdome will have a new scoreboard, remodeled concession stands, and upgraded seating, suites, and lounges.

The reopening of the Superdome will surely be triumphed. However, it will also be disparaged. There is still much destruction evident in and around New Orleans and activist voices will complain that the stadium was a priority while the community has been ignored. They have a point.

Nonetheless, the Louisiana Superdome is iconic, known around the world, and a symbol of New Orleans as a enjoyable destination. Its rebirth will help revitalize the traditional flow of tourists with their pockets full of spending money. More out-of-town cash will show up in local businesses, bolstering the entire economy. That's the argument of the city's leaders. I would agree.


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