Know Your Stadiums: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
The Tulane Green Wave play in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Previously known as the Louisiana Superdome or just The Superdome.
The plans for the superdome was drawn up in 1967 by the architectural firm of Curtis and Davis. The steel frame covers 13 acres and is located on 52 acres of land which includes the former Girod Street Cemetery. It’s 253-foot dome is made of Lamella multi-ringed frame that has a diameter of 680 feet making it the largest fixed domed structure in the world.
It is located in the Central Business District of New Orleans and has been the host of several major sporting events including the super bowl, final four and NCAA Bowl Games.
The dome has an interior space of 125,000,000 cubic feet, a height of 253 feet and a dome diameter of 680 feet. It has a total floor area of 269,000 square feet.
The Superdome came about from sports visionary David Dixon who attempted to convince the NFL to award a franchise to New Orleans. However, after hosting several exhibition games at Tulane Stadium, the typical New Orleans summer thunderstorms dampened the NFL prospects. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle told Dixon that they would never expand into New Orleans without a domed stadium.
Dixon got the support of the governor of Louisiana and they toured the Houston Astrodome in 1966 where the governor was quoted as saying “I want one of these, only bigger.” Seven days after the NFL awarded New Orleans the 25th football franchise, bonds were passed for construction of the Superdome.
The Superdome was conceptualized to be a multifunctional stadium for football, baseball and basketball. It was planned to have moveable field level stands that would be arranged specifically for each sport and areas for dirt such as bases and pitchers mound, that would be covered with metal plates on the stadium floor that would be covered by artificial turf during football games. Blount International of Montgomery, Alabama was chosen to build the stadium.
They hoped to have the stadium would be ready for the 1972 NFL season at a cost of $46 million. However, due to political delays, construction did not start until August 11, 1971 and was not finished until August of 1975, seven months after the super bowl was scheduled to be held in the stadium. Since the stadium was not ready, the super bowl was moved to Tulane Stadium and was played in cold, rainy conditions. The price of the stadium ballooned due to inflation, construction delays and increased transportation cost due to the 1973 oil crisis and increased to $165 million.
The 1975 season began with the Saints losing to the Cincinnati Bengals 21-0 in the first game held in the stadium. Tulane Stadium was condemned on the day the Superdome opened however the original concrete sections stood on the Tulane campus until November 1979.
The original artificial turf playing surface in was produced by Monsanto specifically for the Superdome and was called “Mardi Grass.”
The dome was officially dedicated on August 3, 1975. A long list of celebrities continued to celebrate it’s grand opening from August 28 through September 14, 1975.
In 1978, Muhammad Ali defeated Leon Spinks in his last professional win. In December 5, 1981, the Rolling Stones drew a crowd of over 87,500 for a concert. In 1988 the Republican National Convention was held in the Superdome. A world gala premiere was held in June 1996 for Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Midway through the 2003 football season, the turf was replaced with FieldTurf.
In August of 2005 it was used as a “shelter of last resort” during Hurricane Katrina. During the storm, a large section of the outer covering was peeled off in the high winds. Images of the damage where the concrete underneath was exposed became iconic images from the hurricane. The dome was closed until September 25, 2006.
It cost $185 million to repair and refurbish the Superdome with FEMA putting up $115 million, Louisiana Stadium & Expendition District refinanced a bond package to secure $41 million, NFL contributed $15 million and the state added $13 million for the renovations and repairs.
As part of the renovation, Sportexe MomentumTurf was installed for the 2006 season.
In early 2006, the Superdome began a $320 million renovation that was split into three phases. The first was the repairing and refurbishing from Katrina. In 2008, new windows were installed to bring natural light into the building. Later in the year, the roof-facing of the Superdome was remodeled to restore the roof with a solid white color.
Between 2009-2010, the entire outer layer of the stadium was replaced with new aluminum panels and insulation which returned the building to its original champagne bronze color.
Escalators were added to the outside of the club rooms, each suite included modernized rooms and new point-of-sale systems was also installed to allow concessions with credit cards throughout the stadium for the first time.
During the summer of 2010 Speed S5-M Synthetic turf was installed by UBU Sports and now has the largest continuous synthetic turf system in the NFL.
In 2011, demolition and new construction began in the lower bowl of the stadium to reconfigure it to increase seating by 3,500 seats, widen the plaza concourse, build two bunker club lounges and add additional concession stands. They also added express elevators to take coaches and media from the ground level of the stadium to the press box. They were completed in late June of 2011.
The Superdome has a listed capacity of 76,468 unexpanded or 73,208 non-expanded. Published attendance figures for events such as the Sugar Bowl have exceeded 79,000 though. The BCS National Championship Game has been played in the dome four times. Annually, two other bowl games are played in the Superdome: the Sugar Bowl and the New Orleans Bowl. It also hosts the Bayou Classic between two of the state’s historically black colleges in Grambling State and Southern.
The primary tenant of the Superdome is the New Orleans Saints and hosted the Super Bowl most recently in 2013. Tulane will play their final season of football in the Superdome this season as they plan to move to their smaller on-campus stadium in 2014.
The Superdome had not taken on corporate naming rights until 2011 when Mercedes-Benz bought the rights.
Information for this article was found at www.superdome.com and wikipedia.org. Photos from wikimedia.