Though it appears to be very preliminary, the New Orleans Saints are engaged in talks about a renovation to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Superdome opened in 1975, and has been overhauled twice over the period since 2005. The first round of upgrades addressed repairs to the facility after it was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, while a $366 million renovation in 2011 modernized several aspects of the venue, and coincided with a new naming rights agreement with Mercedes-Benz.
Within a few years, the Superdome hosted Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, which marked the first time since 2002 it was the site of the game. The stadium is set to turn 50 in 2025, prompting some to wonder what its future holds.
As of right now, it seems that the Saints and Louisiana officials are discussing how the Mercedes-Benz Superdome could be reshaped down the road. Modernizing the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to make it more in line with modern NFL domes is something that seems to on the table, albeit as part of a very preliminary discussion. It does seem, however, that all parties involved agree that renovating the Superdome is a more feasible option than constructing a new stadium. More from The Times-Picayune:
The going rate for a new stadium is an absurd $1.5 billion. A renovation of the Superdome, meanwhile, could be accomplished for roughly one-tenth that cost, said Doug Thornton, the vice president of stadiums for SMG, the company that manages the Superdome.
“No one believes we need a new stadium,” Thornton said. “As long as we can keep making improvements to the facility, there’s no reason why the Superdome cannot continue to keep the team competitive and be a viable facility for the foreseeable future.”
State and Saints officials have begun informal discussions on the next phase, which could include, among other things, a reinvention of the main Poydras Street entryway, interior upgrades to the terrace level and potentially replacing some parts of the exterior roof and walls with ETFE glass to bring natural light into the stadium.
I want to emphasize that all of this is just talk at this stage. In the end, much of it could prove to be wishful thinking. But the good news is, everyone appears to be in agreement on what needs to be done and when.
“We have a great relationship with Gov. (John Bel) Edwards and certainly understand the state has higher priorities right now,” [Saints president Dennis] Lauscha said. “(Saints owner Tom) Mr. Benson wants to do what’s best for the state and everyone involved. At the same time, now is the time to start thinking about updating the master plan (at the Superdome), and internally we have started on that process.”
The trend of allowing natural light into stadiums is something that has been more evident in recently-planned dome or retractable-roof stadiums in the NFL. It is one of the main features of U.S. Bank Stadium, the home of the Minnesota Vikings that opened for the 2016 season, and will also be a prominent characteristic of the Atlanta Falcons’ forthcoming Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Image courtesy Mercedes-Benz Superdome.