Fixer Upper

Superdome set for $450 million renovation, years of added life
Credit: Kelly Massicot

 

New Orleans is a major league sports city, and the state and its professional teams have agreed on a $450 million investment in ensuring their venues remain among the best in the world.

On Thursday, the State Bond Commission approved the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED) to sell up to $350 million in bonds to fund the majority of the four-part renovation. LSED bonds are expected to cover $207 million of the $450 million project, with the New Orleans Saints expected to shoulder $150 million in costs and $93 million provided by the state.

While state, stadium, and team officials have kept plans relatively quiet, there are some major changes instore for the 44-year old stadium.

Service and convenience are among the project’s major goals. As many as 80,000 square feet of the Dome’s interior pedestrian ramps will be removed and replaced with escalators and elevators.

A new kitchen will be built in the current parking lot of Garage 6 in the northwest corner of the stadium, replacing the original food preparation center in the southeast corner. The inclusion of modern freight elevators should make food offerings and deliveries to concession stands and suites throughout the dome smoother. Dennis Lauscha, president of the Saints and New Orleans Pelicans, has said relocating kitchen, loading dock, and dumpsters will substantially improve the space between the Superdome and Smoothie King Center, enhancing the outdoor experience before Pelicans games and events at the arena.

The Superdome will also get a “front door.” The large ramps along Poydras Street will be removed in order to accommodate the main ground-level entry way. Additional street-level corridors would be added at the southeast, northwest and northeast corners of the stadium.

Officials would also like to replace the East parking garage with a tailgate park between Champions Square and the arena, replace some of the champagne-colored exterior panels with glass to allow natural light to enter the dome, and an updated visiting team locker room.

The renovation is scheduled for the next four football off-seasons, beginning after the College Football Playoff Championship Game on Jan. 13 or the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 19, if the Saints are the host team, and be finished in time for Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 4, 2024. Many of the stadium’s non-Saints related events – other than the annual Essence Fest, the 2020 College Football Playoff championship game and the men’s NCAA Final Four in April 2022 – will be relocated to other venues.

While $450 million is an eye-popping figure for a city and state that are seeming facing so many issues, the amount will have a strong return on investment. The first result includes the Saints extending their lease with the State until 2035. That will allow the city to continue to host Super Bowls – as well as College Football Championship Games and Final Fours – and reap their economic rewards for the next decade and a half.

In 2013, the Super Bowl in New Orleans generated about $480 million in economic impact and brought over 5,200 credentialed members of the media here for a week. That positive media exposure from media being here that entire week may be worth more than the $480 million in economic impact, according to Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation President Jay Cicero.

“Eleven years later, in 2024, it will be even larger,” he said. “There is simply no event like the Super Bowl for New Orleans. It’s the epitome of all sporting events. It has the most focus, the most media attention, and, certainly, the biggest economic impact.”

The $450 million amount is also less than a quarter of the expected $2 billion cost of a new stadium, according to Doug Thornton, executive vice president of SMG, which runs the Superdome and arena.

The state could also see benefits in the renovation as Mercedes-Benz’s naming rights deal is nearing its end. The upgrades could entice a new sponsor to add its name to the icon with a multi-million payday.

 

 

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