Completed in 1975, the Superdome is a landmark civic structure that took on a new worldwide image when it was used as a shelter during Katrina. Intended only as a locale of last resort for those who had no other evacuation choice (and with no adequate assistance plans in place), the Superdome quickly turned into hell on earth when tens of thousands of refugees ended up there. It became a symbol of suffering, neglect, and despair, as people were trapped without sufficient food, water, medical care, or, it seemed, hope.
Just months later, the New Orleans Saints reopened the Superdome in 2006 to much hoopla for their first home game (and a halftime show featuring U2), and went on to the playoffs. Three years later they won their first Super Bowl ever (in Miami), to rejoicing far beyond the city boundaries. Atop the team’s gleaming success and the Dome’s $118-million renovation, the entire building was then “reskinned” in glittery gold tone, a shining beacon of what can arise from the darkest Katrina days. And what arose 2 years later was a lucrative naming-rights deal with Mercedes-Benz and the 2014 Super Bowl—capping a huge symbolic comeback. Do join the locals in a chant of “WHO DAT?!”
The stats: It’s the largest fixed-dome structure in the world (680 ft. in diameter, covering 13 acres), a 27-story windowless building with a seating capacity of 76,000 and a computerized climate-control system that uses more than 9,000 tons of equipment. Inside, no posts obstruct the spectators’ view of any sporting event while movable partitions and seats allow reconfigurations. Besides sports events, this flying-saucer-like building hosts conventions, balls, concerts, and other productions, as does its sister Smoothie King Center next door. Champions Square, a new outdoor plaza, has become pre- and post-game central.