Completed in 1975, the Superdome is a landmark civic structure that took on a new worldwide image when it was used as shelter during Katrina. Intended only as an evacuation locale of last resort, 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. 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. Inside, there are no view-obstructing posts, and movable partitions and seats allow reconfigurations. Besides sports events, this flying-saucer-like building hosts conventions, balls, and concerts, as does its sister Smoothie King Center next door. Champions Square, its adjoining outdoor plaza, has become pre- and post-game central and home to many a festival and special event.