If the NFL builds it, good things will come
Sunday, September 25, 2005
As Hurricane Katrina wiped out large swaths of America's most hauntingly
beautiful city, it also eroded the thick wall separating pro athletes from
their audience. Instead of hearing about the strain of feeding a family on $14
million a year, fans saw Saints wide receiver Joe Horn traveling to Houston to
spend his limited time off with evacuees from New Orleans. Instead of
complaints about not getting respect or the ball or good calls from the refs,
they got to hear football players expressing gratitude for what they did have.
"I'm lucky,'' Saints wide receiver Donte Stallworth said when asked how
badly his home had been damaged. "I have the money to replace everything.''
Warrick Dunn, the Falcons' running back from Baton Rouge, challenged every
player in the NFL to donate $5,000 to relief efforts. Quarterbacks Peyton and
Eli Manning, New Orleans natives, personally delivered 15 tons of relief
supplies, from bottled water to baby diapers, on a plane trip into Baton Rouge.
But the one thing that NFL players might not be able to give New
Orleans is themselves, helmets on, ready to play. From a purely business
perspective, sending the Saints back home makes no sense. The team was
struggling financially even before Katrina came through the city, ripping away
part of the Superdome roof and transforming the stadium into a squalid shelter.
Now the business community, already too small to provide enough luxury-box and
advertising revenue, has evaporated. Season-ticket holders probably will have
to knock the Saints out of their budget so that they can pay for refrigerators,
sofas and TVs.
So the NFL can't go back to New Orleans without paying an enormous price.
But it can't abandon New Orleans without appearing callous, and sacrificing its
image as a vital member of the community. That might be an even bigger price
because the business of the NFL is sustained by irrational emotional
connections, the love of a town for its team. Pulling out of New Orleans would
make the Colts' disgraceful late-night withdrawal from Baltimore look like a
So the league is stuck. Aside from committing to a ghost town, it will
have to find a way to take the Saints off the public dole. The state owns the
Superdome and, in addition to rent-free tenancy, team owner Tom Benson receives
state subsidies reportedly worth $186 million over 10 years.
The best solution seems to be for the NFL, as a whole, to build a stadium
in New Orleans and gradually turn over the deed to the team owner. It's
certainly possible, even if it's not sensible. While trying to get back into
Los Angeles, the league has proposed exactly that kind of plan.
The NFL already has a fund, of $1 million per team diverted from the TV
contracts, to help finance stadium deals, including the one in New England,
which received $150 million in grants from the league. Under the current rules,
New Orleans wouldn't qualify for a huge subsidy, because the grants favor
large-market teams. But a natural disaster that leaves 80 percent of a city
underwater should be sufficient cause to tweak some rules.
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue recently told the New Orleans Times-Picayune
that he couldn't commit to anything about the Saints' future except the best of
"I think it really turns on, 'What kind of a New Orleans will there be?'
That really is the question,'' he said. "And we're going to do everything
possible to make sure there's a New Orleans Saints. But people larger than us
and institutions larger than us are going to have to succeed in making sure
there is a robust, healthy New Orleans, you know, with fans and businesses and
all the things you hope a city can have.''
But if the NFL says it is returning and underwriting a stadium, one can
assume that there will be a "Field of Dreams'' effect. Other businesses would
follow. In addition, the league can commit to holding a string of Super Bowls
in the city, which traditionally has been its favorite for the big show.
There are a lot of red flags behind the idea. How does the league respond
to the next natural disaster? How does it justify the expense to owners in
towns -- including San Francisco -- that need new stadiums? If there is
insurance on the Superdome -- and no one is clear on that -- would it be
pointless and wasteful for the NFL to step into the situation?
But the question that matters the most is the one that Tagliabue asked:
What kind of New Orleans will there be? The NFL can help shape the answer and
save an American city.
Former New Orleans Saints linebacker Rickey Jackson has entered the Superdome many times in his NFL career, but never the way he did one Saturday night in mid February 1994. Jackson rode into the arena on a float. He was the grand marshal of the parade of the Krewe of Endymion, the largest parading organinzation in the history of New Orleans' Mardi Gras. Located in downtown New Orleans, within walking distance of the French Quarter, a riverboat casino, and many shops and restaurants, the Superdome is the only pro sports stadium in the country that hosts a Carnival parade. And that's only one of the unique uses of this sports palace, which has become the favored destination of everything from Super Bowls to tractor pulls.
Truth is, it's always a party inside the Superdome, especially when the Saints are in town. As the only major league sports franchise in the city, the Saints have enjoyed a love affair with New Orleans fans that has only intensified with the team's recent winning ways. Although the stadium is so big that the Astrodome could fit inside, Saints games have sold out for virtually seven years. The Superdome on game day is a prime example of a city letting the good times roll.
Daily Weather Report - temperatures in the low 70's, with winds from the north, south, east and west at 1 mph.
Created by law: November 8, 1966 Louisiana Constitutional Amendment
Construction began: August 11, 1971
Superdome Opened: August 3, 1975
Total Land Area: (building, garages, and grounds) - 52 acres
Height: 273 feet (82.3 meters)
Diameter of the Dome: 680 feet (210 meters)
Area of Roof: 9.7 acres
Concrete: 169,000 cubic yards (131,820 cubic meters)
Structural Steel: 20,000 tons (18,200 metric tons)
Air Conditioning: 9,000 tons (8,190 metirc tons)
Convention / Meeting Rooms: 52
Private Box Suites: 132
Parking Capacity: 5,000 cars + 250 buses
Lighting: 15,200 fully computerized lighting fixtures
Video System: 2 DiamondVision panels each 28'7" x 36'3"
Scoreboards: 4 (8' x 60' each)
Electrical Wiring: 400 miles (640 kiometers), including fiber optic lines.
Anodized Aluminum Siding: more than 550,000 square feet
Elevators: 10 + 1 freight
* NOKIA Sugar Bowl Football Classic
* New Orleans Saints (NFL)
* Tulane University Football
* Bayou Classic Football (Grambling State and Southern Universities)
* Super Bowl XII (1978), XV (1981), XX (1986), XXIV (1990), & XXXI (1997)
* NCAA Basketball Final Four (1982, 1987, 1993)
* Nokia Superdome Classic (LHSAA Football Championships)
* Winn-Dixie Showdown Baseball Tournament (College Baseball)
* Winn-Dixie Pro Rodeo (Professional Cowboy Association)
December 1, 1997 - Ray Waddell, Amusement Business
New records were set for event use days and event revenues at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans over the just-completed fiscal year.
What maes the benchmark even more noteworthy is the fact the record run came in a year where the building had its busiest construction period since it opened in 1975.
The Superdome's main arena was busy for 258 days in the 12-month period ending this past summer, breaking the old record of 255 set the previous year. Activity in the Dome's four ballrooms totalled 606 use dates, also a new high. . .
. . . The new record levels were achieved during a heavy construction period. A total of $22.8 million in improvements, effecting all levels of the Superdome, were completed in time to host the Nokia Sugar Bowl January 2, 1998 and Super Bowl XXXI January 31, 1998. . .
. . . Improvements included a new entrance lobby and ticket offices, an additional concourse serving the upper level seats, refurbished ballrooms, additional accommodations for the disabled, and upgraded safety and security equipment.
THE ULTIMATE SPORTS ROAD TRIP
By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
October 7, 2002 - Set against the backdrop of the New Orleans skyline, the Superdome stands as an imposing sight for any who are traveling into the Big Easy via I-10. Opened for business in 1975, this building has seen so much more than its fair share of memorable events. Besides being the home of the Saints, the Superdome is also the annual host for the Sugar Bowl football game, has hosted three NCAA Final Fours (Jordan's game winner, Webber's "timeout", Keith Smart's jumper), five Super Bowls (soon to be six) and so much more!!
|Louisiana Superdome Ranking by USRT|
|Fan Support|| 4|
|Concourses/Fan Comfort|| 6|
|Bonus: Tailgate Scene|| 0|
|Bonus: Tom Benson's Parasol|| 1|
|Bonus: The Big Easy|| 1|
|Bonus: Jazz Music Bumps|| 1|
|Total Score|| 60.5|
Outside the Venue
When coming to the game, give yourself plenty of time as traffic on the I-10 can be vicious!! However once you're on the local streets there is ample parking to be found whether it be the parking garages and lots at the Dome or private lots within a couple of blocks walk. We did our normal walk through the parking area in search of some good tailgating and to our shock found it to be nearly non-existent. Hard to imagine a total lack of such a vital aspect of a football experience. Yet here at one of America's biggest party cities?...nada...absolutely amazing!! There was however a huge pre-game party near the Dome with live bands and way too many fans for us to make our way around in so at least there was some sort of action to be seen around the stadium.
Another point of interest here is the New Orleans Arena, which shares the grounds with the Superdome. This recently opened 18,000 seat facility was definitely built with the big leagues in mind (Grizzlies??). However at this time the primary tenant is the ECHL New Orleans Brass. Keep up the search for a major league tenant New Orleans, we need a good reason to come back!!!
Also to be noted in this time of impending conflict is the Vietnam Veterans statue in the plaza. Along with a statue of soldier, there are plaques on the wall behind it offering a year by year timeline of the Vietnam conflict from the time the North Vietnamese expelled the French in 1954 until the fall of Saigon in 1975.
Four major concourses here, for the plaza, club, suite, and terrace levels. There are views of the field from many but not all points of the plaza concourse. Being an older facility, walkways were somewhat constrictive and hard to maneuver in heavy traffic. Of note here is that some of the concession stands are pushed back to facilitate the long lines that occur during breaks in the action and do assist in alleviating congestion in the aisles. Here at the Superdome we were somewhat surprised to see escalators and CARPETED ramps to transport fans to their section. Impressive to see this in an older facility. However we could have done without the smoking areas at the top of each escalator...how about that second hand smoke greeting you upon arrival at your assigned concourse!!!
Once you step inside the seating area, all it takes is one look up to the roof to get an idea of the size of this enormous facility. This venue has no peer in America as to its size and it is this view that is its most breathtaking. There is seating for roughly seventy thousand Saints fans and when they're motivated sound like about twice that many!! Interesting of note is the multicolored seat pattern as the dome's seats are individually colored in red, purple and others we can't recall. It bears similarity to Hamilton's Copps Coliseum save for the fact that here it is much more pleasing to the eye.
We also noticed the sideline seats on the plaza (field) level appear to be temporary in nature and can be moved around for other events. In order to get from the plaza concourse to those seats one has to walk across a catwalk that bridges the wide chasm between them. We were (and still are) somewhat curious as to whether this venue was designed to host baseball as well.
The usual items can be found here, but not without a huge dose of New Orleans and Cajun fare. Here at the Superdome there are plenty of stands throughout the concourses serving classic local food and drink such as daiquiris, gumbo, jambalaya, cajun sausage, alligator sausage and so much more!! A wonderful mix of delicacies that accentuates the flair of this unique area of the country. Sorry, we stayed away from the daiquiri stands as Peter already had enough of those and besides, the restroom lines are hideous here!!
Retired Numbers and Banners
For the past thirty plus years, the "Aints" have been an annual exercise in futility and in most seasons have lost much more often than they won. However this past season was one of the exceptions to that rule as they surprised everyone by taking the NFC West crown and winning their first playoff game in franchise history. This being the Saints home opener, we were able to witness the unveiling of the banner commemorating this achievement as it now stands next to another banner celebrating their 1991 division title.
The Superdome also has five banners for those who have contributed mightily to the Saints and/or sports in Louisiana. Representing the Saints are Rickey Jackson, Archie Manning and the late former GM Jim Finks alongside college football's winningest coach Eddie Robinson, Dave Dixon, and some Louisiana basketball icon who played for an NBA franchise in this city that has long since passed, the late "Pistol" Pete Maravich.
As we visit the various venues, we often chuckle as to how the "homers" running the video board replays use music clips and replays to incite the fans and grab that home edge. Well, nobody has honed the talent like they do here in New Orleans. Every marginal call, or non-call, which seemed to go against the Saints, was shown again and again on the replay boards, and of course the crowd was going nuts. Home town fans always see what they want to see on a replay! Also, music was pumped in on each big defensive stand, to the point where visiting Viking players were disconnecting sideline speakers at field level. Operations staff on the field were reconnecting them just as quickly.
Also worth mentioning is the terrific pregame intros - the players come out of the tunnel to the foot stomping, hand clapping beat of terrific blues music as well as a rendition of "When The Saints Come Marching In". We joined in with the fans, and the entire atmosphere had a distinct New Orleans flavor!
Touchdowns, Extra Points, and Fumbles
Touchdown - Who dat say dey gonna beat them Saints! Not dem Vikings!! The USRT started a new home team win streak with the Saints' dominating 28-15 win over the Vikes. Next up for us are the Redskins at FedEx Field, they sure could use our karma!!
Extra Point - When it comes to noise making, it's hard to beat the decibel level of an indoor stadium. The noise levels were for lack of a better term, thunderous. Minny QB Dante Culpepper was forced to call a TO on at least one occasion thanks to the raucous New Orleans crowd.
Extra Point - One of the most unique individual rites of celebration can be found here at the Superdome. After each Saints victory, longtime Saints owner Tom Benson usually can be seen dancing around the sidelines with parasol in hand, unfortunately on this day...
Fumble - despite the victory, the parasol or the dance were nowhere to be seen!!! Quite a few fans lingered in the stands and waited, along with us. Even longtime season ticket holders we spoke to were surprised not to see this take place amidst the celebration.
Fumble - to a Skycap agent at the New Orleans Airport, we'll simply refer to him as "Cajun Man". He asked us the obligatory security questions pertaining to our luggage, but his thick accent made him so difficult to understand that there was a miscommunication between Cajun Man and Peter. We were whisked away to the back room for brief questioning, and wound up having to have our luggage taken care of by security supervisors.
Touchdown - we would be remiss not to mention the French Quarter in our profile. One of America's great party zones and being here during a long holiday weekend made it that much better, special thanks to those who assisted us with ideas for where to go and what to do while here. It was a great time with a mixture of local folk, Viking Fan, and Gator Fan (down from watching Florida's annilihation of LSU). Props go to Peter's parents who just happened to be in town while we were visiting New Orleans.
ALSO - special thanks to unidentified GATOR FAN at Atlanta/Hartsfield Airport who chased us down and returned our digital camera when Andrew had mistakenly left it behind.
WHO DAT!!! Quite simply the best indoor football facility outside of St. Louis. We were pleasantly surprised to see that this facility more than holds its own amongst venues of its era and is somewhat comparable with those that have gone up since then. But of course, there are cries for a new facility with all the works and while the Superdome will be used for the short term future, you can bet on a new home of the Saints being in place before the end of the decade. A nice facility in a great city, we came very close to the four star ratin for the Superdome, yet without any real tailgating presence that is so vital to any football venue we leave it as a three, and a high three at that.
LOUISIANA, NFL CLOSE TO SUPERDOME DEAL
April 20, 2006
Copyright 2006 MediaVentures
The NFL would provide a $20 million loan to help complete reconstruction of the Louisiana
Superdome under a deal being finalized by both sides. The work would include some upgrades to the building including new scoreboards and video systems.
The talks are focusing on the Saints' desire to acquire advertising and marketing rights within the building. Some of the signage to be added would be new space and is not covered under existing agreements. Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District officials are hesitant to relinquish exclusive marketing rights in a venue that hosted more than 150 events annually before Hurricane Katrina ravaged the building last August.
Some of those events, such as the Sugar Bowl, could have sponsors that would conflict with sponsors chosen by the Saints. The state wants to be in the position of controlling the space to avoid conflicts among the tenants.
The league would also like the state to reduce the exit penalties for the Saints should the team want to leave. The team is currently liable for $81 million in penalties if it decides to leave before 2010. The NFL would like to see that reduced by up to $20 million.
The state is also required to make subsidy payments to the team and it has struggled to come up with the money, even before the damaged caused by hurricanes.
SUPERDOME OFFICIALS SUE OVER BOND SALE
January 29, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
New Orleans, La. - The Louisiana Superdome authority has sued Merrill Lynch over a $238
million stadium bond issue that exploded in interest costs after the market for the bonds dried up last year.
The suit, filed by the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District in state court and in federal
courts, claims the authority was led astray by Merrill Lynch over the potential volatility of the
auction-rate bonds if not enough buyers could be found.
Merrill Lynch - without the authority's knowledge - was an active participant in sales for
auction rate bonds, which roll over every 7, 14 or 28 days, and had been artificially propping up the market, the suits allege.
After Merrill Lynch stopped participating, buyers for the bonds dried up and the interest rate
skyrocketed from about 4 to 12 percent, eventually costing LSED an additional $65,000 per day in
interest costs. Auction rate bonds are sold to a bidder willing to accept the lowest interest rate.
"If we had known that Merrill Lynch was participating in these auctions and these auctions
eventually failed if Merrill Lynch quit participating, we would not have used this method" of
financing, said James Swanson, an attorney for LSED.
The bonds involved refinancing of existing Superdome debt, along with $40 million for
post-Hurricane Katrina improvements and $25 million for working capital.
To stop the drain of huge interest costs, the state bought the bonds as an investment of its own late last year. The state has authorized the treasury to hold the bonds through 2009. Although the interest costs will still be several percentage points higher than originally anticipated, it will be less than the maximum interest rate had the bonds stayed on the market, state officials have said. (Forbes)
LOUISIANA MAY COME UP SHORT ON FUNDS FOR SAINTS, HORNETS
February 12, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
New Orleans, La. - The organization that runs the Louisiana Superdome is unlikely to have
enough money to pay the New Orleans Saints and the Hornets next year.
The Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District is facing a $27.5 million shortfall, largely
because of obligations to the teams and mounting debt, said Doug Thornton, senior vice president
of SMG, told lawmakers. SMG operates the Superdome for the Exposition District.
The shortfall adds to the state's financial woes for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The state already is expected to generate $1.2 billion less in state general fund revenue than in this fiscal year.
Payments to the Saints in the NFL and the Hornets NBA team are creating problems. However,
the Saints are the bigger problem because they receive three times as much as the Hornets.
The Jindal administration is negotiating with the Saints to extend the football team's stay in
Gov. Bobby Jindal said that a deal brokered by a previous administration relied on unrealistic
revenue expectations. That deal guarantees the team $23.5 million a year in cash inducements.
The talks between the Saints and the administration are being kept private. Jindal said he will make the details public before agreeing to a new deal. Jindal said he wants the Saints to stay in Louisiana.
He said it is too early to know what the state will be able to afford the next fiscal year.
At a meeting of the General Government Subcommittee on House Appropriations, several
lawmakers said the Saints' current agreement is a luxury the state cannot afford.
State Rep. Eddie Lambert asked if the Superdome could book more events if the Saints weren't
playing 10 weekends a year.
"This is a doomed scenario," Lambert said. "There's no way you can meet your debt service
with these professional sports teams."
Thornton said it would be tough in the current economy to attract additional events.
He showed legislators a flow chart that identified the district's major revenue sources as $40 million in taxes and $23 million from operations. Most of the tax revenue stems from a hotel/motel tax.
In the upcoming budget year, the district also has an $18 million debt service payment and
$33.8 million in total contractual obligations to the Saints.
The district refinanced debt and borrowed additional money after Hurricane Katrina to repair
the Superdome and to pay operating expenses.
State Rep. Jim Fannin and chairman of the House appropriations committee, urged Thornton to
deliver solutions to the problem rather than asking the state for money.
Thornton said the state can raise taxes or reallocate tax revenue going to other sources. He said
the hope is that the negotiations with the Saints will result in a rebalancing of the state's risk. (Baton Rouge Advocate)
SAINTS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT NEW LEASE, RENOVATIONS
March 26, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
New Orleans, La. - Saints owner Tom Benson expressed his confidence that the team and the
state will have a long-term lease agreement in place soon, and the Super Bowl will return to New
Orleans in 2013.
He even showed great enthusiasm for the proposed enhancements to the Superdome, saying:
"I think that what we've got in mind right now, that might even be better than a new stadium."
"Naturally, I would like it to be over. I really did think we'd have it done by now," Benson said
of the lease negotiations during a break in the NFL's annual meetings. "But our people have made
a lot of headway, and I think we're going in the right direction.
Saints and state officials have shared that optimism, predicting that a deal will be in place in
time for the next set of NFL meetings, May 18-20 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., during which the 2013
Super Bowl will be awarded.
New Orleans plans to submit its bid to host that game by the April 1 deadline, knowing the bid
likely won't be considered unless the long-term lease agreement is reached by the time the owners
vote in May.
If the lease agreement is in place, however, Benson believes New Orleans is practically a
shoo-in to bring back the NFL title game for the first time since 2002.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell echoed that sentiment, saying that he would like to see the
game return to New Orleans for a record-tying 10th time if all the elements are in place.
New Orleans and South Florida have each played host to nine Super Bowls, but South Florida
will reach 10 when it hosts Super Bowl XLIV next year.
Of more immediate concern is the lease agreement. The current agreement is scheduled to run
out after the 2010 season, and the sides are trying to work out a 15-year extension.
Under the current agreement, the state will pay the Saints $23.5 million this year and next as
part of the 10-year, $186.5 million contract signed in 2001. The Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, the agency in charge of the Superdome that is heading discussions on behalf of the state, is hopeful the sides can reach an agreement without a continuation of the large inducements.
Instead, the LSED has been proposing ways to generate new revenue.
Benson said there is no specific issue that he is putting his foot down and refusing to bend on.
He said, however, that one of the most important issues being discussed is further enhancements of the Superdome.
The sides have been working on a proposal that would create an additional 3,000 seats in the
lower bowl, widen the plaza concourse from 18 feet to 60 feet to expand restroom and concession
capacity and possibly move the 300-level press box higher to allow for more than a dozen new
suites to be built.
"The big thing is that you've got to spend a lot of money, and what our participation has to be,
in getting the Superdome up to standards for the Super Bowl," Benson said. "But on top of that,
that it will be a real first-class facility. That's of more interest than anything, you know. Our people and our fans deserve that." (New Orleans Times Picayune)
STATE CLOSE TO DEAL WITH SAINTS OVER PAYMENTS
April 16, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
New Orleans, La. - Louisiana Sports and Exposition District and the New Orleans Saints may
be close to concluding nearly year-long talks for a long-term Superdome lease. Doug Thornton, the
regional vice president of SMG, the company that manages the Superdome and the New Orleans
Arena on behalf of the state, told the LSED's monthly meeting that negotiations are progressing
and a deal could be struck soon.
Thornton's latest public comments appeared to be more optimistic that a deal will be struck before
NFL owners meet May 18-20 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to vote on the site of the 2013 Super Bowl.
The state wants to host the Super Bowl, but it also wants to change the terms of an earlier deal
that required payments to the team in exchange for its promise to delay talks for a new stadium.
Since that time, the Superdome has undergone major renovations following Hurricane Katrina,
paid for largely with federal funds.
Before entering a bid for Super Bowl XLVII, the state wants to resolve the lease, preferably
before upcoming league meetings. New Orleans is vying with Phoenix and South Florida to host
the game. If an agreement isn't in place when the meetings begin, LSED and New Orleans Sports
Foundation officials said they would pull the bid to host.
Under the current agreement, which expires after the 2010 season, the state will pay the team
$23.5 million this year and next as part of the 10-year, $186.5 million contract signed in 2001.
The state likely can reduce its payments to the Saints by increasing potential revenue stream
for the NFL franchise at the Superdome.
According to a plan by architect Ellerbe Becket, an additional 3,000 seats can be created in the
lower bowl by changing the geometry of the Plaza level. The plan also calls for widening the Plaza
concourse from 18 feet to 60 by closing in the space where the ramps are. The extra concourse area
would expand restroom and concession capacity.
Also, the 300-level press box could be moved higher, allowing for more than a dozen suites to
be built that would generate extra revenue. The Saints sell the 137 suites at the Superdome, which
have been sold out since the 2006 season, for $90,000 to $150,000 per year.
Another possible revenue stream for the Saints could be the New Orleans Centre, the vacant
shopping mall that sits adjacent to the stadium and that hasn't been open since Hurricane Katrina.
Although it allowed an option on the property to expire in December, the LSED remains
interested in purchasing the New Orleans Centre and continues to explore how it might finance
Last year, the LSED discussed buying the property, which includes the Dominion Tower, a
parking garage and a former mall, and converting the latter two pieces into a sports and
entertainment district that would help lure major sporting events to the city.
Although the deal, which likely could have helped the Saints generate more revenue, fell
through in December, the property could still be in play.
SAINTS REACH DEAL WITH LOUISIANA
May 7, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
New Orleans, La. - Louisiana taxpayers could save up to $281 million under a new deal state
officials reached with the Saints. Legislative approval is still required.
The plan calls for the state would to make $85 million in improvements to the Dome, and Saints
owner Tom Benson and his family would buy the vacant Dominion Tower and New Orleans Centre
and lease office space back to the state.
The deal also would create a new sports district, increase the potential for stadium revenue and
shift more of the financial burden on the Saints by eliminating fixed payments and reducing
subsidies based on the team's financial performance.
The savings come by releasing the state from a previous agreement that paid the team to delay
talks about a new stadium and remain in New Orleans. That 10-year deal would have cost the state
a total of $186 million - money the state has struggled to pay in recent years.
The upgrades include the substantially widening plaza level concourses, adding concession
stands, reconfiguring lower bowl seating to add 3,100 seats, and adding 300-level luxury boxes, a
new retail store, a club lounge and upgraded restaurants. The moves, along with the lease, allows
the team to earn more revenues.
The new revenue streams would reduce the state's financial obligation to the Saints based on a
sliding scale, with the most the team could receive in a year capped at $6 million if the team
generates less than $7 million in new game-day revenue. The state's payment drops to zero if the
Saints generate at least $12.5 million in new revenue.
Through the deal with the Saints, the Superdome Commission is seeking to develop real estate
around the 34-year-old dome into a sports and entertainment district that will secure the city's
future as a destination for major national athletic events.
The commission negotiated for much of last year to buy the vacant Dominion Tower, the aging
New Orleans Centre mall and a 2,100-space parking garage from California real estate investor
Judah Hertz, who bought the buildings in 2003. The deal stalled in December after the state would
not agree to a pivotal piece of the plan.
The commission had its eye mostly on the mall and the garage, which it wanted to convert into
an entertainment district that might one day rival Patriot Place in Boston or L.A. Live in Los
Angeles. It would have paid for the buildings by leasing portions of the Dominion Tower to state
agencies that had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
The Benson family also will buy the mall and the parking garage and then lease those back to
the Superdome Commission, a state agency, which will operate them on game days. The
commission and the Bensons will share profit from the property, which will be recast into what they
called a "festival plaza."
Although the commission has not devised plans for what the plaza might look like, officials say
it would be a destination for fans, with food and digital and interactive media. The Benson family
has agreed to spend $10.5 million during the next three years to improve the space, which could
one day become a showpiece that would help lure the Super Bowl and other events to New
Although the state initially resisted the proposal to move its agencies into the tower, it has now
agreed to lease 320,000 square feet inside the building from the Benson family, which hopes to
close on all three buildings in August. The Bensons would have to seek commercial tenants for the
168,000 square feet in the tower the state does not plan to use.
The Bensons said they would spend $10 million restoring the tower, plus an additional $12
million to adapt the suites to the needs of various state agencies. The family will lease the building to the state for about $24 per square foot, considerably more than the going rate of $18 per square foot for Class A buildings in downtown New Orleans.
Still, the state thinks it has a good deal because said it would have paid $24 to $26 per square
foot plus operating expenses to put up a new building, as it initially planned to do. The Dominion Tower would also represent a step up for the state agencies, which are mostly housed in Class B and C buildings today.
The sale, which could be complete in August, could also bolster prospects for the Hyatt
Regency, an enormous hotel that has sat vacant since Hurricane Katrina. The Arkansas
development team that plans to renovate the hotel is struggling with the national credit crunch, but lenders might look on the project more favorably if the mall and tower are revived.
SAINTS GET NEW SUPERDOME LEASE
September 3, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
New Orleans, La. - A complex deal that allows New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson to buy a
building, then lease its offices to the state has been approved, a move intended to extend the
team's lease at the Superdome.
The deal will pay Benson $100 million over 15 years to lease the space to 18 agencies. Typical
state leases are for no more than five years. The space amounts to two-thirds of the now-empty
Dominion Tower which Benson is expected to acquire for more than $40 million.
Besides the tower lease, the Saints deal required lawmakers at the last session to allocate $85
million for improvements to the Superdome that will be made during the next two years. The
improvements will expand the seating area by 3,100, add 16 luxury suites and allow construction of 43 more concession outlets - all designed to give the Saints $12 million more in revenues.
Under the new deal, the state will not pay more than $6 million in cash to the Saints annually
even if the team does not generate the projected $12 million from the additions. If the
improvements yield the team $6 million, the state will pay the $6 million difference; if they
generate $10 million, the state will pay $2 million.
The Dominion Tower lease requires the state to pay $20 per square foot as a base rent or $6.4
million a year. An additional $4 per square foot - about $1.3 million - will reimburse Benson for
$12.5 million of improvements he has to make to the office space before the agencies can move in.
The lease calls for an annual increase in rent based on the base rate of $20 per square foot. The
increase will track the Consumer Price Index.
Benson will be responsible for operating the building, providing maintenance and leasing the
other 141,000 square feet of space.
Over the life of the contract, the state will save between $270 million and $280 million for not
making direct payments as it has for the last several years, officials said. Under an existing
agreement that expires after the 2010 football season, the state will have paid Benson $186.5
million in cash, including $23.5 million last year, this year and next year.
The deal also includes leasing out the tower mall as an entertainment district on game days as
well as the building's parking lot.
September 17, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson are looking for a master planner to develop an entertainment district around the Louisiana Superdome. The Saints just completed a new deal with the state that will keep the team in the building.
TULANE CONSIDERS FOOTBALL STADIUM
April 15, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
New Orleans, La. - Tulane athletics officials say they are planning a new on-campus football
stadium and have already raised a significant amount of the $60 million they believe it will cost. The team now plays at the Louisiana Superdome.
A 25,000- to 35,000-seat on-campus football stadium is plans and would be built on the existing football practice field, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune. The stadium and practice facility will mirror each other in a catty-corner stance between the Wilson Center and the Reily Center and a game-day pavilion is included in the set of plans the university is reviewing.
Once funded, the project is expected to take at least three years to complete. Per university policy, school officials can't comment about facilities that are not fully funded. The football team's average paid attendance for home games last season was 25,147 at the
Superdome, which has a capacity of 70,000.
Tulane has played in the Superdome since 1975 with games at Tad Gormley Stadium sprinkled in for a more intimate college football setting, such as for homecoming. Gormley, which is primarily used by area high school teams, has a capacity of 26,500 but doesn't have the state-of-the-art amenities and is about five miles from campus. Old Tulane Stadium, which seated 81,000, was demolished in 1980.
SUPERDOME GETTING UPGRADES FOR NEXT NFL SEASON
June 24, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
New Orleans, La. - Work is underway on the first phase of an $85 million upgrade to the
The refurbishing, part of a state commitment to keep the Saints in New Orleans through 2025, will dress up the facility for the 2013 Super Bowl and other big-time sports events down the road.
The first phase of the upgrades will be completed before the Saints' first preseason home game on Aug. 21, officials said.
The second phase will be completed before the 2011 football season, after which the Dome will play host to a succession of high-profile sporting events.
In addition to annual events like the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the Bayou Classic, the Superdome will be the scene of the 2012 BCS college football title game, the 2012 NCAA basketball Final Four and the 2013 Super Bowl.
Officials said the renovation project, which will include additional seating, helped enhance the city's bids for the Final Four and the Super Bowl.
Jay Cicero, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, which drafted the bid for the Super Bowl, said additional seating closer to the field and new luxury suites are “always a plus" for securing bids for major events.
The first phase includes the addition of 15 suites on the 300 level and the construction of a press box on the 700 level. Season ticket holders displaced by the new press box were offered relocation ticket packages.
The new suites are displacing the old press box, but the network anchor booth, officials' replay booth and house control booth will remain on the 300 level. Once the 15 suites are complete, the Dome will have 153 luxury suites.
After the 2010 football season is over, construction will begin on the second phase of upgrades, including new sideline seating, an expanded Plaza Level concourse and new club lounges.
The current sideline seating on the Plaza Level will be taken out and replaced with more seating closer to the field. The new sections will add an estimated 3,100 seats.
At the same time, the Plaza Level concourse will be widened from 18 feet to 60 feet, providing room for more restrooms and specialty food stands, which will include more local foods.
Under the Plaza Level, there will be new premium clubs with a private entry from the parking garage as well as a bar, lounge and television monitors.
The upgrades are being financed by state surplus money from 2008. Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a bill appropriating the money in July 2009.
The upgrades are in addition to a three-phase $219 million Superdome facelift after Hurricane Katrina. That work included a new roof, refurbished seating, upgraded sound systems and new club lounges.
The final stage of the post-Katrina renovations is being completed this summer. New aluminum panels are being installed on the Dome's exterior walls, which will have a “rainscreen" that shields and controls water penetration but does not eliminate it.
FUNDS APPROVED FOR ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT NEAR SUPERDOME
July 29, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
New Orleans, La. - The State Bond Commission has approved $15 million to help finance an
entertainment district near the Superdome, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune. The funding was part of an agreement with the Saints to keep the NFL team in the building for another 20 years.
Superdome officials are expected to put up about $11.5 million for the renovation of the bridge linking the stadium to the old New Orleans Centre, which will be transformed into a food and entertainment venue.
U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp., an investor, is expected to put up about $3.9 million, Meredith Hathorn, the bond lawyer working on the deal, told the newspaper.
Bond Commission Director Whit Kling, who analyzed the project, told the Times Picayune that by tapping into federal new market tax credits, the "desired result of the transaction is the generation of approximately $1.9 million in additional funds over and above the funds currently available (by the Dome commission) to go towards the redevelopment project."
The $15 million in borrowing will not constitute a debt or obligation of the state or Orleans or Jefferson parishes, which now generate hotel tax revenues to pay off stadium debt, Kling said.
Superdome officials said the first phase of the work to reconstruct the link between the Superdome and the old shopping mall and some work in the former mall should be finished by mid-August in time for the New Orleans Saints' first preseason home game.
FINAL PHASE OF SUPERDOME REMODELING BEGINS
February 10, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
New Orleans, La. - Work will start on the final phase of the remodeling of the Louisiana
Superdome on Jan. 24, a five-month project aimed at further sprucing up the building that has undergone massive upgrades since Hurricane Katrina wrecked the 36-year-old venue in 2005, the New Orleans Times Picayune said.
When construction begins, workers will make drastic changes to the lower bowl of the stadium, reconfiguring it to increase seating by 3,500, widening the plaza concourse, building two bunker club lounges and adding additional concession stands.
Also part of the $85 million renovation that was put in place as part of the 15-year lease extension between the Saints and the state, crews will start tearing down the temporary stairs that lead from Champions Square to the Dome, replacing them with permanent steps. Workers also will complete the installation of express elevators that will taxi coaches and media from the ground level of the stadium to the press box.
"Phase by phase, this will be a brand new stadium," Saints owner/executive Rita Benson LeBlanc told the newspaper. "Our goal is to bring the best game-day experience to our fans. The ease and the convenience of the new bunker clubs is unique in that it will bring our fans quickly and as close to the action as possible.
"Creating these additional club seats will allow us to remain competitive in attracting future Super Bowls, the premiere sporting event in the world. The entire lower configuration is structured to provide every fan a premium vantage point with the latest in-stadium technology. We are very excited about this new phase. When people tune in to a Saints game, it is a positive, non-stop infomercial for New Orleans, and that is important to not only the Saints but to our fans and our city."
The work is scheduled for completion by June 13, according to Dome officials.
"These next few months are extremely important," Superdome construction manager Pat Tobler told the Times Picayune. "The scope of the work is such that it is either done or it is not done. There is no in-between.
"We are completely tearing out the existing steel deck bowl and replacing it with a pre-cast concrete deck. It's a reconfiguration of the seats. The seats are moving closer to the field, more in line with the NFL standard of today. There will be 3,500 new seats in the lower bowl. So we are either going to get it done or we are not. We are optimistic it will be done."
The Dome already has undergone a massive overhaul.
In 2010, work was completed on the addition of 16 new luxury suites on the 300 level and new a press box on the 700 level. The Saints' locker room also has been remodeled, more than doubling the size of their old chambers with high-tech medical equipment added.
Other enhancements that have already been made include a 6,000-square-foot Saints Team Shop. A massive staircase has been added, serving as an entryway into the stadium from the new 60,000-square-foot Champions Square presented by Verizon, a sports and entertainment area on LaSalle Street.
LOCKOUT DOES NOT CONCERN SUPERDOME OFFICIALS
March 24, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
New Orleans, La. - Although many businesses count on NFL games and the crowds they bring
to generate revenue, the New Orleans Times Picayune said a prolonged lockout would not hurt the finances of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District.
Because the New Orleans Saints take home all game-day revenue from the Louisiana Superdome, a work stoppage wouldn't put a dent in the state's coffers.
If anything, a season-long lockout would allow the LSED to save nearly $1.2 million in game-day staffing, Doug Thornton, the regional vice president of SMG, the company that manages the Superdome and the adjacent New Orleans Arena for the state, told the newspaper.
"The LSED will not be negatively impacted financially because we don't receive any game-day revenues," Thornton said. "Those revenues that are generated by the team are kept by the team.
What it will do is alleviate the LSED of some of those expenses that it would have to pay during the season for which it is not reimbursed. If anything, it might be a savings to our budget."
In reaching a deal nearly two years ago that would keep the Saints playing in the Superdome to 2025 and create revenue streams for the Saints, the state built in a clause that alleviated much of its financial burden to the team if the 2011 season is lost because of a lockout.
According to the 15-year lease, the new revenue would reduce the state's financial obligation to the Saints based on a sliding scale, with the most the team could receive in a year capped at $6 million if the team generates less than $7 million in new game-day revenue. The state's payment drops to zero if the Saints generate at least $12.5 million in new revenue.
The potential of a lengthy lockout won't impact the state's lease agreement with Saints owner Tom Benson and his family at the Benson Tower and Champions Square, according to Thornton.
"We have to plan and expect the worst," Thornton said. "But like everybody else, we are hopeful it will get resolved and there won't be an interruption in the season."
SUPERDOME RENOVATIONS NEAR COMPLETION
July 7, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
New Orleans, La. - Just five months after demolition crews tore down much of the lower bowl
of the Dome, renovation work has been completed and construction crews are leaving the Superdome, the New Orleans Times Picayune reported.
"With the Essence Festival coming up soon, the improvements are really outstanding," Ron Forman, the chairman of the LSED, which oversees the Dome and the New Orleans Arena told the newspaper. "We are proud of the fact that the state of Louisiana will have a new football stadium that eliminated the need to build a brand-new stadium.
"The place is going to be ready for the Essence Festival, and it's going to be ready for the NFL teams to come and play here. It's going to be a stadium that everyone in the state is going to be proud of."
As part of the drastic makeover, workers have changed the configuration of the lower bowl, increasing football seating by 3,400, while widening the plaza concourse, building two bunker club lounges and adding additional concession stands.
Crews also have torn down the temporary stairs that led from Champions Square to the Dome and have begun replacing them with permanent steps. In addition, the installation of express elevators that will transport coaches and media from the ground level of the stadium to the press box have been completed.
Doug Thornton, the senior vice president of SMG, the company that manages the Dome and the adjacent New Orleans Arena on behalf of the state, told the Times Picayune he is amazed with the transformation of the stadium, especially after seeing firsthand how badly the building was damaged during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Since Katrina, the Superdome has undergone more than $336 million in renovations. The building will be in the national spotlight for the next 24 months as it hosts three championship sporting events: the BCS national title game Jan. 9, 2012; the Men's Final Four March 31-April 2, 2012; and the Super Bowl in February 2013.
"I have to pinch myself when I walk through here," Thornton said. "It's hard to imagine that we are in a building that was so heavily damaged and was really left for dead. There were so many people that didn't think it would recover, and here we are; the Superdome has really been reinvented. It's kind of hard to imagine. ... We've seen it come, literally, full cycle, from being at its lowest in the history of its 36 years to now what I think will be the golden age of the Superdome."
By the time the stadium is scheduled to open for football season on Aug. 12 for a preseason game between the Saints and the San Francisco 49ers, those sitting in the plaza sideline seats will be about 10 feet closer to the playing field. They'll also have twice as many restrooms, with upgraded toilets, sinks and lighting.
Fans in the new plaza club section will have access to two 7,500-square-foot bunker lounges, one on each side of the stadium. The lounges are each equipped with 28 flat-screen TVs, granite countertops and full-service bars. The lounges will serve 4,500 fans, whose old plaza seats will be upgraded to premium tickets, giving those fans leather chairs with cup holders.
The concourses on the plaza level also have been extended, as the space between the concourse and plaza seating has been enclosed to add restrooms and concession areas.
Once the festival is over, crews will return to finish work outside of Gates A and C, including the installation of a permanent staircase from Champions Square to Gate C. The seats on the east side of the plaza will not be installed until after Essence because they are not used for the festival.
Thornton said Superdome will be back among the elite stadiums in the NFL.
"I think it's near the top," Thornton said. "I won't say that it is the best, but it certainly has to rank in the top 12 if not higher. That's saying a lot when you think about all the stadiums that have been built in the last eight or nine years. I go around the league and see a lot of other venues, and this has to be in the top 12.
"What makes this building somewhat unique - now that we have completely remodeled it on the interior - is the fact that it is located downtown in walking distance of 20,000 hotel rooms. That's something that other cities can wish for."
NAMING RIGHTS SOLD TO SUPERDOME
October 6, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
New Orleans, La. - The New Orleans Times Picayune said the New Orleans Saints and
Mercedes-Benz have reached a 10-year naming rights agreement that will turn the 36-year-old Louisiana Superdome into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The deal is worth between $50 million and $60 million, according to sources who talked with the newspaper.
The announcement comes slightly more than six years after Hurricane Katrina tore the roof off the stadium as it was being used as a shelter by thousands of New Orleanians. A massive renovation allowed the stadium to reopen for the 2006 NFL season, and the building has been improved every off-season with the final touches of the $336 million project completed in August. According to Saints officials, it's a new stadium that is better than any in the country.
The stadium's profile will be raised as it hosts three national sporting events in the next 16 months: January's BCS championship game, April's men's Final Four and in February 2013, the Super Bowl. Those events and the success and stature of the building's primary tenant - the Saints - helped persuade Mercedes-Benz to sign on, the newspaper said.
As part of the Saints' 15-year lease extension with the state that was signed in 2009, the Saints were allowed to negotiate a naming rights deal on behalf of the state with the proceeds from the sale going toward any subsidies the state would have had to pay the Saints.
According to the current lease agreement, the Saints get the first $1 million of net revenue from the naming rights deal, with a 50-50 split between the team and the state of the remaining revenue, although the state's share is in credits toward the subsidy payments, not cash.
While the state won't actually reap any cash from the sale of the naming rights, the Times Picayune said the new revenue streams from the renovation and naming rights sale reduced the state's financial obligation to the Saints based on a sliding scale.
And because it appears the Saints will reach their goal of at least $12.5 million in new revenue, the state is off the hook, the newspaper said.