$450 million renovation will keep the Superdome viable for decades to come
Baseball’s two most famous ballparks are also its oldest. Boston’s Fenway Park, which saw its first pitch in 1912, and Chicago’s Wrigley Field, which opened two years later, are beloved. While both have seen the addition of modern amenities in recent years, their charm lies in their age: They are cherished because of their longevity.
Football’s most famous venues are generally found on college campuses. But in the pro ranks, Soldier Field, which dates back to 1924, and Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, which opened in 1957, are subjects of nostalgia, and the modern venues — like Dallas’ AT&T Stadium, opened in 2009, and San Francisco’s Levi’s Stadium (2014), Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium (2016) and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta (2017) — have drawn the attention away from the rest of the league.
Caught between the old and the new is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Opened in 1975, the dome has outlasted its contemporaries — the Astrodome in Houston (1965), Silver Dome in Detroit (1975) and King Dome in Seattle (1976).
To keep from being relegated to the dustbin of history, the state of Louisiana and the New Orleans Saints, the dome’s main tenant, have teamed up to keep the 44-year-old building viable. The stadium had a $376 million renovation in the years after Hurricane Katrina. In 2016 a $40 million refurbishment, which included end-zone-wide videoboards, was conducted.
To keep up with modern, new stadiums — the most recent of which topped $1.5 billion in construction costs — the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED), also known as the Superdome Commission, is embarking on a four-phase, $450 million renovation to further modernize and upgrade stadium amenities before the Superdome hosts Super Bowl LVIII in 2024. A third of the cost, roughly $150 million, will be picked up by the Saints. The LSED is expected to sell $210 million in bonds to fund the project and the state would be responsible for the remaining $90 million.
The first phase will add new food services and remove 80,000 square feet of interior ramps and replace them with escalators and elevators. While plans haven’t been finalized, the renovation could include new standing-room-only areas and a tailgating zone outside of the dome.
Leaders of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation (GNOSF) say the Superdome upgrades will help keep the city atop the list of championship game destinations. Working with the NFL, NBA, NCAA, AAU, numerous professional and amateur organizations, WWE, and public and private partners in its 30-year history, the sports foundation has brought hundreds of events to the city and turned a $40 million public investment into a $3 billion economic impact for Louisiana and Greater New Orleans. Events lured by the GNOSF are projected to make an economic impact of more than $803 million in the next four years, with five major events on the books or in the bidding process. Super Bowl LVIII will likely push that total north of $1.2 billion in total economic impact, including $48.8 million in state taxes.
“That’s a significant amount of return on investment for Louisiana,” said Jay Cicero, GNOSF president and CEO. “It’s very satisfying to be able to look at the numbers that are generated for these major events and that’s fulfilling the mission of the organization.”
In recent years, new stadiums have been important bargaining chips for cities bidding to host marquee events such as the NCAA Final Four and the Super Bowl. However, over the next five years, New Orleans will play host to the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship, 2020 Women’s Final Four, 2022 Men’s Final Four and the 2024 NFL Super Bowl. If New Orleans wants to stay in the game of hosting major sporting events, it needs to keep its crown jewel sparkling. At one-third the cost of a new stadium, this is a great deal. When the state is only responsible for $90 million it becomes even better.
The Superdome is already legendary, and with these modern additions it will become iconic.
New Orleans is famed as a host of major sporting events. The following are already in the works:
Event | Est. Econ. Impact | Est. State Taxes
2020 College Football Championship | $250 million | $8 million
2020 NCAA Women’s Final Four | $43 million | $2.1 million
2022 NCAA Final Four | $168 million | $7.3 million
2024 Super Bowl | $434 million* | $15.2 million*
Total | $895 million | $32.6 million
*Figures based on Super Bowl XLVII in 2013