Thursday, Aug. 15 ,2019
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — New Orleans' iconic Superdome, home to the Saints football team and a symbol of the city's revival after Hurricane Katrina, will undergo a $450 million facelift, under a financing plan approved Thursday that is aimed at keeping the NFL team in Louisiana for decades.
The 44-year-old domed stadium, which has hosted seven Super Bowls, will see its ramp system removed and replaced with elevators and escalators, club and suite levels expanded, new entry gates erected, concession stands added and access for people with disabilities improved.
Construction is expected to take four years, working around football and other event schedules, but will be completed before the Superdome hosts its next Super Bowl in 2024, said Doug Thornton, a New Orleans-based executive for SMG, which manages the facility.
The Superdome renovations are part of Gov. John Bel Edwards' ongoing negotiations for a new state contract that could extend through 2050 with the Saints, a team whose popularity has soared with record-breaking quarterback Drew Brees and whose relationship with New Orleans has tightened through years of hurricane recovery.
"We're 100% committed to this market, 100% committed to this state. We want to be here," said Dennis Lauscha, the president of business operations for the Saints, speaking on behalf of team owner Gayle Benson, who also owns the New Orleans Pelicans NBA team.
Borrowing plans to pay for the upgrades won unanimous backing Thursday from the State Bond Commission, a panel of statewide elected officials and lawmakers. The state, the Saints and the Superdome management district will share in the borrowing repayment, with the state covering $90 million, the Saints putting up $150 million and the district paying $210 million.