Opinion: Superdome renovations a face-lift for New Orleans, but about far more than football

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THE ADVOCATE – Before Moon Landrieu was mayor of New Orleans, he served on the local committee developing what was to become the Louisiana Superdome.

He tells the story of how the designers decided that with the money available they could not meet the 60,000-seat order they had been given by Gov. John J. McKeithen, a requirement of the National Football League.

As Landrieu had been on the wrong side of the last governor’s race, against McKeithen, the other committee members felt that he would have the least to lose in terms of breaking the bad news to the governor.

Landrieu explained the problem over the phone. He recalls McKeithen’s North Louisiana drawl in reply: “You load the wagon. I’ll take care of the mules.”

Then as now, the Louisiana Legislature could be a most recalcitrant set of mules. But McKeithen knew how to handle a wagon, the money was found, and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome remains one of New Orleans’ — and Louisiana’s — iconic structures.

The 44-year-old domed stadium is significant architecturally but also for the economy of its home state and city. It is the home of the New Orleans Saints and has hosted seven Super Bowls among many other events.

We welcome the news that a $450 million face-lift for the building will be underway.

Construction over four years, working around football games and other events, will be completed before the Superdome hosts its next Super Bowl in 2024, according to Doug Thornton, a New Orleans-based executive for SMG, which manages the facility.

Borrowing for the construction plan won unanimous approval from the State Bond Commission, which includes state officials and legislators of different parties.

That bipartisan support we hope will be continued as the Legislature in coming years puts up financing for the arena. The state share of $90 million must be found in the budget but the bulk of the money will come from the Saints ($150 million) and the stadium district board ($210 million).

The Superdome management board — the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District — will cover its portion of construction costs with a local hotel tax dedicated to its operations and revenue it receives from events.

After the repair of Hurricane Katrina’s damage in 2005, the stadium now holds 73,000. The renovations will include escalators and elevators instead of the ramps familiar to fans, and a host of other improvements.

The bond between the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast with their Saints is strong and we look forward to the Superdome improvements and years of great football ahead.

And we’re rather confident, even in these days of partisan bickering, the members of the Legislature will be willing to pull this wagon to the goal line.

Read the full story on The Advocate’s website here.

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