Superdome’s many clients, past and present, have enjoyed climate-controlled confines

  • icon
  • icon
  • icon
  • icon
Super Bowl XLVII was another major event in the long, proud history of the Superdome in New Orleans (Photo: Parker Waters).

Super Bowl XLVII was another major event in the long, proud history of the Superdome in New Orleans (Photo: Parker Waters).

From Super Bowls to national championship college football games to Final Fours.

From NCAA regionals to SEC basketball tournaments.

From Tulane football and occasional University of New Orleans games.

From Major League Baseball exhibition games to professional wrestling events.

From Muhammad Ali to Leon Spinks to Sugar Ray Leonard to Roberto Duran in big time boxing showdowns.

The Superdome has housed many of the top sporting events in the country and the world.

The latest big event to call the Dome home was WrestleMania XXX, which took place in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on April 6, 2014 and drew 75,167 screaming fans. Another major event in the Dome is nothing new.

While Dave Dixon was considered an innovator by some, he was considered crazy by others for envisioning an indoor stadium for New Orleans. Of course, Dixon understood the balmy climate of the Crescent City.

As a sports enthusiast, Dixon was intimately and passionately involved in courting a professional football team for New Orleans and understood that an indoor, climate-controlled stadium would serve New Orleans well in the possible quest for a Major League Baseball team.

The pro football dream became a reality on Nov. 1, 1966 when the NFL awarded the New Orleans Saints to our city.

The Louisiana Superdome was dedicated on Aug. 3, 1975. The New Orleans Saints played the Houston Oilers six days later in a preseason football game in the facility.

I remember it vividly. My late father was an original New Orleans Saints season ticket holder and we still own season tickets in our family. The ‘Dome was an astonishing site. I had been in the Astrodome twice by then and my first impression is that you could easily fit the Houston facility into the Superdome and then some.

I remember the escalator we tried to take to our seats on the Plaza Level not working that night. Such is the price of progress, the bugs to work out on opening night. I remember the site of the gondola and the six-sided video screens and marveled at the technology. The multi-color seats were a carnival-like atmosphere. The air conditioner certainly worked well. It was cool! The Oilers won the game 13-7 before a packed house of 72,434 excited fans.

Such was my first experience with the Louisiana Superdome. Hank Stram took over as the head coach of the Saints in 1976.

“Having a chance to coach a team quarterbacked by Archie Manning and having a chance to play in a remarkable, state-of-the-art facility were primary things that attracted me to the job with the Saints,” Stram said. “Of course, it would have helped to have Archie healthy and to have a chance to build something.”

Of course, the highlights of the New Orleans Saints’ tenure in the Superdome include the first win in the facility, a 20-19 thriller over Green Bay on Oct. 12, 1975.

Other notable moments for the Saints and the NFL in the Dome:

— The first-ever playoff win, a 31-28 thriller over defending world champion St. Louis on Dec. 30, 2000.

— The return to the ‘Dome following Hurricane Katrina on Sept. 25, 2006, when the Saints whipped the Falcons 23-3 and Steve Gleason became a household name.

— The 27-24 win over the Eagles on Jan. 13, 2007, to send the Saints to the NFC Championship Game for the first time ever.

— The 31-28 overtime victory over the Vikings on Jan. 24, 2010, to send the Saints to the Super Bowl for the first time.

Doug Thornton is the former general manager of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, a New Orleans resident, and the current Executive Vice President for SMG facilities and arenas nationwide.

Thornton maintains his office in the Superdome, the same office that he was bunkered into during the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, when the Superdome saved lives, was occupied by more than 30,000 people and was severely damaged. For months, it was uncertain if the damage to the facility could be repaired. Thornton saw it through and Sept. 25, 2006 was a true triumph.

saints_gleason_block2“It was a memorable night,” Thornton said. “It represented the culmination of a solid year of hard work. I think about the pride of what it felt like to be a New Orleanian. Being on the field to hear U2 and Green Day play ‘The Saints Are Coming’ was moving.”

Thornton, whose own home was destroyed, inundated by seven feet of flood waters, was part of the New Orleans fabric of persevering and overcoming.

“Katrina took away so many things, homes, schools, lives,” Thornton said. “The one thing people did not want to see gone was their football team and stadium. It was a celebration. As NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said, it redefined the term ‘homecoming.’ It was special to see the building come back to life.”

Having covered the Saints since 1978 in some capacity and running the Saints Hall of Fame Museum, which has been in the Superdome since 2007, I have spent many days and nights in the facility. I was fortunate to be part of the Saints broadcast team from 1995-1999.

The New Orleans Saints are clearly the most famous, long-term tenant in the Superdome. Manning quarterbacked the Saints in their first game in the new facility.

“I remember we went in there on the night before we played Houston and it seemed like we didn’t get much done,” Manning said. “Everyone was just looking around in awe. Most of our players had never played in a Dome before. I had played in the Astrodome, which was not nearly as big.”

Manning understood the significance of being part of history.

“Everyone was excited,” Manning said. “It was different. I wanted to complete the first pass in there and I did. Houston got the ball first but did not complete a pass. I threw a quick screen on first down to make sure I got the first completion in the new building. It was fun. All the questions after the game were about the Dome.”

Right behind the Saints were the Tulane Green Wave.

In his final year on the job, Bennie Ellender guided Tulane to its first-ever home game in the Superdome, a 14-3 win over Ole Miss before 50,000 appreciative fans on Sept. 20, 1975. Those were the days!

While Tulane Stadium was still standing and would be used for six years before succumbing to the wrecking ball, Tulane’s football teams moved indoors and remained there through 2013, moving to a new on-campus facility in Yulman Stadium in 2014.

Tulane in the SuperdomeThe most memorable Tulane victories at the Louisiana Superdome included a 24-13 win over LSU under Larry Smith to finish the 1979 regular season 9-2, a 48-7 demolition of the Tigers under Vince Gibson to end the 1981 season and a 63-30 blitzing of Louisiana Tech on Thanksgiving night to end a perfect 11-0 regular season under Tommy Bowden in 1998.

Bill Curl, who served as Sports Information Director at Tulane from 1966-1973 and later served as Public Relations Director at the Louisiana Superdome from 1977-2010, feels strongly that the ‘Dome was a boost for Tulane football.

“Tulane had a great run of quarterbacks who played professionally and being able to play in the pristine conditions of the Superdome had to have a factor in that,” Curl said. “It took the Tulane program beyond the campus atmosphere to try to develop additional fans. When they had success, that happened, particularly when they brought in good teams and won.”

The Bayou Classic relocated to the Louisiana Superdome from Tulane Stadium in 1975 and the cultural icon remains at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to this date, a nationally televised game annually.

The first Bayou Classic in the Superdome was held on Nov. 29, 1975 with legendary coach Eddie Robinson guiding Grambling to a 33-17 win over Southern. It was one of the first neutral-site “classics” around the country matching historically black colleges.

The game features a weekend-long celebration of activities and brings a huge influx of tourists to the city annually. The Battle of the Bands is a huge attraction.

The 2014 Bayou Classic was the highest scoring affair in Classic history as Southern outscored Grambling 52-45. Other memorable games included a 31-29 Tigers win in 1984, a 31-30 Southern win in 1991, a 30-27 Grambling win in 1992 and the Jaguars winning 44-41 in 2003.

“The Bayou Classic has a long history with the Superdome and it has been a very important tenant for us,” Thornton said. “Eddie Robinson conceived the idea of having it in New Orleans at Tulane Stadium and then at the Superdome. We have seen so many great athletes come through over the years in the game. I had just started at the ‘Dome in the last year or two Coach Robinson was at Grambling. That was one of my most memorable moments here. It brings visitors from north Louisiana who help pay for our facility.”

The Allstate Sugar Bowl moved into the Superdome as well in 1975 and remains a fixture. The Sugar Bowl has hosted several national championship games.

The first Sugar Bowl Classic in the Superdome took place on Dec. 31, 1975, as Alabama fought off Penn State 13-6 in a defensive struggle.

The first official National Championship Game in the Sugar Bowl was played in 1993 with Alabama whipping Miami 34-13 on Jan. 1, 1993. The first Sugar Bowl Bowl Alliance National Championship Game saw Florida winning a rematch game with Florida State, beating the Seminoles 52-20 on Jan. 2, 1997.

As part of the BCS National Championship rotation, the Sugar Bowl produced a title winner when Florida State whipped Virginia Tech 46-29 on Jan. 4, 2000. The Sugar Bowl was one of two semifinal games Jan. 1, 2015 when Ohio State beat Alabama 42-35.

LSU-Alabama, 2012 BCS ChampionshipIn addition, the Superdome has played host to two other BCS National Championship games, including LSU’s 38-24 win over Ohio State on Jan. 8, 2008 and Alabama shutting out LSU 21-0 on Jan. 9, 2012.

Allstate Sugar Bowl chief operating officer Jeff Hundley understands the significance of the Superdome to the Sugar Bowl’s success.

“The Superdome has absolutely been a central, important piece of the puzzle to stay at the top of the heap of the collegiate football scene nationally,” Hundley said. “The facility has shown tremendous adaptability, which is a testament to the original designers and those running it today. Change is essential. People had vision, past and present. It has worked to everyone’s benefit. We’re hopeful it will continue to adapt and evolve with the competitive facilities nationwide.”

For the first two decades of the Dome’s existence, the Sugar Bowl basketball tournament was an annual event. It would eventually move to Lakefront Arena and to New Orleans Arena.

Legendary coaches, including Bob Knight, Mike Krzyewski, Guy Lewis, Larry Brown, Wimp Sanderson, Terry Holland and Rollie Massimino brought teams to the Superdome while notable players included Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Bernard King and Kent Benson.

“We’ve had everything in there from basketball to the Mardi Gras Marathon to Youth Clinics, all of which were held at the Superdome,” Hundley said. “We’ve had recent discussions about having an AAU basketball event here. It is not just a football facility. We are glad to have our offices in this great facility.”

On June 7, 1974, the New Orleans Jazz was born as an NBA franchise.

After playing a year at Municipal Auditorium and Loyola Field House, the Jazz moved into the Dome for the 1975-1976 season.

Attempting to make a splash to attract fans, the Jazz made a blockbuster trade, mortgaging a large part of the future to acquire LSU hero Pete Maravich.

The move worked at the box office and Maravich was nothing short of brilliant before injuring his knee, tearing cartilage and stretching a ligament on one of his patented, showtime between-the-legs pass in a game with Buffalo on Jan. 31, 1978. The Jazz were in the midst of a winning streak. Maravich won a scoring championship. He was an elite player. The pass may have effectively signaled the beginning of the end of the Jazz in New Orleans.

The Jazz made another ill-advised move, trading away a top draft choice for the aging Gail Goodrich of the Lakers. Los Angeles would turn that pick into Earvin “Magic” Johnson. The Jazz never had a winning season in their five seasons in New Orleans.

Plagued by a bad lease and an 11 percent amusement tax, Jazz owners Sam Battistone and Larry Hatfield lived up to frequent threats and relocated the Jazz from New Orleans to Salt Lake City, Utah after the 1978-79 season. The League Board of Governors unanimously voted for the relocation on June 8, 1979. I remember the announcement. I was numbed by it. The Jazz remain in Salt Lake City today.

I began working in the media industry in 1978 and I will never forget the late Wayne Mack assigning me to cover a Jazz game, sitting courtside, and nervously sticking a microphone, along with a huge recorder, in the face of Maravich after a game. Fortunately, he was polite, beer in hand.

Pete Maravich, Jazz vs. CelticsI remember the free french fries from Burger King when the Jazz scored over 110 points, along with the ticket discounts from Shoe Town. The familiar strains of “Breezin” by George Benson and “Jazzmatazz” still echo in my ears after all these years.

The great memories for me include Maravich going for 68 points, torching the likes of Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe and Dean Meminger in a 124-107 win over the Knicks on Feb. 25, 1977. Maravich was 26-of-43 from the field and 16-of-19 from the free throw line. He fouled with 1:18 to play or he certainly would have scored 70 or more points.

I remember a crowd of over 26,000 against the Lakers on a night where New Orleans was flooded by rainwater and a crowd of over 35,000 for a game with the 76ers. Those were magical times.

SportsNOLA.com’s Ron Brocato covered the Jazz for The States-Item.

“The one thing that really killed the Jazz before Pete got hurt was the ridiculous trade for Gail Goodrich,” Brocato said. “Goodrich was formerly represented by Barry Mendelson, who was the vice president of business operations. Battistone was feeling the heat. He wasn’t from here. He got a sweetheart deal in Salt Lake City and took it. The fans enjoyed basketball and free french fries while watching the stars on other teams and watching Pete.”

In 1977, A. Ray Smith relocated his Triple A farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals from Tulsa to New Orleans and the Louisiana Superdome.

The team featured a host of future Major League players, including Ken Oberkfell, Benny Ayala, Rick Bosetti, Pat Darcy and Dane Iorg. Perhaps the team is most remembered for a pair of other players who made it as big league managers in Tony LaRussa and Jim Riggleman. Future New Orleans Zephyrs manager John Tamargo was the catcher. The parent Cardinals came to town to play an exhibition game.

The team was dreadful from the start, finishing 57-79 under overmatched Lance Nichols, drawing 217,957 fans. In a Major League market with an NFL and an NBA franchise, minor league baseball had to produce a winner. Awash in debt, the team relocated to Springfield after one season.

Brian Allee-Walsh served as the baseball team’s media relations director, among other tasks. He went on to write for The Times-Picayune and now contributes to SportsNOLA.com.

“For a person new to the city who loved baseball, to be part of an effort to try to bring Major League Baseball to the city, it was the thrill of a lifetime,” Allee-Walsh said. “Unfortunately, it did not work. Several teams floated the idea of coming to New Orlrans, including Oakland the White Sox and the Orioles possibly being suitors. It was fun to be part of. It kept me in New Orleans to stay.”

In 1979, it was a new approach for a professional team in New Orleans with the advent of the New Orleans Pride of the Women’s Professional Basketball League.

After losing the NBA Jazz to Utah, New Orleans was seen as a strong market for a women’s professional basketball team. Local gynecologist John Simpson and noted basketball fan Steve Brown were the owners.

The team debuted under former Jazz head coach Butch Van Breda Kolff, who had tired of recruiting and administration duties as the head coach and athletic director at the University of New Orleans, accepting the challenge of coaching the Pride.

The team played its first game on Nov. 15, 1979 at the Superdome and it was encouraging start as the Pride drew 8,452 fans to its opener. The team was solid and made the playoffs, going 21-13 in the regular season but lost in the quarterfinals.

Unfortunately, the team could not sustain support. On many nights, there were under 1,000 fans on hand as the Pride played in the cavernous Superdome or at UNO’s Health and Physical Education Center. The team dropped to 18-19 in the 1980-81 season.

I remember several players well, including Sybil Blalock, who would go on to coach at UNO, Sandra Smallwood, Cindy Brogdon, Betty Booker, Vicky Chatman, Bertha Hardy and Beverly Crusoe.

“They were very good the first year,” Brocato said. “They were well disciplined, the kind of team Butch wanted to coach. He was a teacher who could not teach in the NBA. The women listened to them. They had some talent, not the best in the league. Sybil Blalock was their best player. They got the most out of their talent. They were well received initially, with local ownership. Butch had to sue to get paid at the end, as I recall. The league was before its time.”

In 1981, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association consolidated all of its four state football championship games to one event, under one roof, at the Superdome. The event remains there today, albeit, with nine championship games over two weekends.

In 1978, St. Augustine defeated Jesuit 13-7 before over 44,000 fans for the Class AAAA state championship in the Louisiana Superdome. The fantastic crowd sparked an idea in Curl.

“Neal Gunn was my boss as associate general manager at the ‘Dome,” Curl said. “He played high school football at Neville. I told him we could bring all of the championships together in the Superdome. We went to Baton Rouge to meet with commissioner Frank Sprieull. He said it would never happen.”

Curl refused to give up.

“After pitching him (Sprieull) on a sponsor, he still doubted it. We came back with a non-profit beneficiary and he left the door open. The Lions Club made a pitch and won out. The event was born. Tommy Henry succeeded Sprieull as commissioner and he took it and ran with it. They sponsored the event the first couple of years. Now, the Allstate Sugar Bowl sponsors it and you see what it has become.”

Brocato, who has handled the press box for the championship games for several years now, credits Curl, the Superdome and the LHSAA for the long-term success.

“It was a great idea and it is still going on today,” Brocato said. “There are principals from other parts of the state who still question why it has to be here but most like coming here. The LHSAA and the Superdome folks have made a great job of making it work. It is a total level of cooperation and a great event. The split championships are too much and need to be amended. Two weekends will not work long-term.”

In 1984, local businessman Joe Canizaro brought the New Orleans Breakers to the Superdome as part of the United States Football League, which Dixon was instrumental in helping create.

Under the direction of head coach Dick Coury, the Breakers relocated to New Orleans and the Superdome from Boston. They started like a house of fire, winning their first five games and making a splash by signing Marcus Dupree.

“We knew if we put a good football team on the field, that could win, and did win, we’d excite the people of this city,” Canizaro said in the midst of the win streak.

Just as quickly as the fire started, it was doused by injuries and reality as the Breakers stumbled down the stretch, losing their final six games to finish 8-10, missing the playoffs. Former Iota and McNeese State star Buford Jordan was a star, rushing for 1,276 yards, outshining the more celebrated Dupree. Jordan would ultimately sign with the Saints and had a solid career in the NFL. Frank Lockett was a solid receiver.

The Heartbreakers were a good dance team with a clever name. Gov. Edwin Edwards was supportive, using his blue campaign jackets that were left over to emblazon New Orleans Breakers logos on them. Select media got the blazers. I still have one in my closet as a reminder of the team.

The Breakers drew pretty well, averaging 30,557 per game. That was not the problem. Following the 1984 season, USFL owners got big-headed and decided to challenge the NFL on a head-to-head basis, planning a move to the fall in 1986 to compete directly with the monolith. It was an ill-advised decision.

It led to the demise of the Breakers. Canizaro understood that it would be suicidal to try to compete with the Saints in-season and to even book dates in the ‘Dome. He reluctantly relocated the team to Portland, saying he was “sick” about doing so. He reportedly lost over $5 million in his one season in New Orleans. The league would be gone in two years.

On a personal level, it was a sad, disappointing ending. I was fortunate to be part of the Breakers’ telecasts, serving as a sideline reporter.

In 1987, the Busch Challenge college baseball tournament was born and lasted for 13 years (through 1999) in the Louisiana Superdome. Former Tulane head coach Milt Retif was one of the primary movers to get the event started.

The challenge was a forerunner to future classics around the country. It pitted LSU, Tulane and UNO typically against three top teams from another state, including Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Oklahoma. The Busch Challenge eventually became the Winn-Dixie Showdown.

UNO athletic director and former head baseball coach Ron Maestri remembers it fondly.

“It was a natural with LSU, Tulane and us having good programs,” Maestri said. “It evolved where it was a great concept with Louisiana against another state. We had some great teams come in. Our UNO fans pulled for Joe Brockhoff’s team and for Skip Bertman’s team. There was a great sense of state pride. There were some awesome players who played in the Dome in that event. It was a who’s who of stars in professional baseball.”

Busch ChallengeMaestri felt the Superdome made the event what it was.

“The scouts loved it,” Maestri said. “They could come in to see three games a day with some of the better prospects in the country right at the beginning of the season and they didn’t have to worry about the weather with the Superdome. That helped make it a big-time event. Teams wanted to come here and play in a big-time facility. It was the premier college tournament in the country outside of the post-season.”

The classic folded after LSU decided to pull out, citing the lucrative nature of playing home games as the top drawing team in the country, rather than traveling and splitting gates.

“We could not measure up to what they could make, even after we increased our guarantee to them,” Curl said. “They simply could make more money playing at Alex Box. The series was great. It caught on and developed camaraderie among our area teams, a sense of pride in Team Louisiana. That was good to see.”

In 1991, the New Orleans Night became an expansion franchise in the relatively new but growing Arena Football League.

The very name of the league should have been a portend of things to come. New Orleans did not have a suitable arena for the team to play in. The floor of UNO’s Lakefront Arena was not big enough.

As a result, owners Mike McBath, Bill Hampton and David Briggs had their team housed in the Superdome. The team was outfitted in forgettable Zubaz uniforms.

The team was a respectable 4-6 under Eddie Khayat in 1991. Khayat departed following that season and the team lured former Tulane head coach Vince Gibson, who had no previous experience coaching the indoor game, to take over. It did not go well.

In the first season, Milton Barney was a standout, along with receivers Willie Culpepper and Jerome McIntosh. Marco Morales was a good kicker. Johnny Sims was very good. Willie “Satellite” Totten and former Shaw and LSU star Mickey Guidry split time at quarterback.

The Night, a disastrous 0-10, were faced with no arena to call home, growing debt and trying to promote a bad team. The franchise folded following the 1992 season after two years in existence despite averaging 8,843 fans per game.

I was the original play-by-play announcer on radio for the Night while Ed Daniels did color analysis the first season. Our first game was at Albany, New York where the Night faced the FireBirds. We did not know what to expect. By the end of the first quarter, I turned to Ed; we both agreed that it was fun. The fun did not last. Albany won 45-20.

The first home game was June 9, 1991 against Dallas and in exciting fashion, the Night won 27-23 before a crowd of 8,468.

Guidry was the quarterback in 1992. Former Tulane lineman Jim Bishop was on that team as well. Brian Wiggins was the top receiver.

“Originally, we started okay and our goal was 10,000 a game and we averaged just over 9,000 fans that first year,” Curl said. “Our management team at the Superdome took over the second year. The team did not win a game and people lost interest. We thought it could be an entertainment product. There was extreme competition for the entertainment dollar. It could have stuck with more success. If we had an arena to play in, that would have helped.”

In 2001, a new attraction joined the Superdome clientele when the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl came into existence as an early bowl season game.

The Wyndham Hotel chain was an early sponsor of the game while the Sun Belt and Mountain West Conferences were the affiliations of the contest.

Colorado State whipped North Texas 45-20 on Dec. 18, 2001 in the first New Orleans Bowl. R&L Carriers became the presenting sponsor in 2006.

The most memorable New Orleans Bowl games include Southern Miss outlasting Troy 30-27 in overtime on Dec. 21, 2008, UL Lafayette defeating San Diego State 32-30 on Dec. 17, 2011, and the Ragin’ Cajuns edging Tulane 24-21 on Dec. 21, 2013. That game drew a New Orleans Bowl record 54,728 fans.

Hunter Stover kicked a game-winning 27-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and the Ragin’ Cajuns survived a miss by future NFL kicker Cairo Santos, who missed a 48-yard effort that would have produced overtime.

2014 R&L Carriers New Orleans BowlThe Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation has sponsored the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl since its inception. The Sports Foundation has been the driving force behind there Super Bowls, three Men’s Final Fours, an SEC Basketball Tournament, several NCAA regional basketball tournaments, a Bassmasters Classic, 14 New Orleans Bowl games and several of the baseball exhibition games.

Jay Cicero is the president and chief executive officer of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation.

“Without the Superdome, I don’t think we would be able to create the New Orleans Bowl with the Sun Belt Conference,” Cicero said. “There was no stadium at Tulane 15 years ago and Yulman Stadium is not large enough now. Having the Superdome, the hotels and the city behind it is a great package for our city prior to Christmas.”

Cicero sees a great future for the New Orleans Bowl in the Dome.

It’s been 15 good years (this year) for the New Orleans Bowl and we envision it being a long-term entity, thanks to many, including the Superdome. It is a real asset in selling the game.”

On Oct. 3, 2011, the Louisiana Superdome was officially renamed as the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the German automotive manufacturer remains the name sponsor today.

Also in 2013, the New Orleans VooDoo of the AFL played six home games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with renovations to Smoothie King Center taking place. The team went 5-13 overall, including 2-4 in the Superdome.

“It was a great thing to have a great facility like the Superdome available for us at that time,” said VooDoo owner Dan Newman in 2013. “Without it, we would have had to play in another city, away from New Orleans. They reached out to us when we needed it.”

The Superdome also hosted Major League exhibition games from 1976-1999, on and off. Initially, the Superdome was envisioned as a lure to attract Major League Baseball to New Orleans. It nearly worked.

“We had a handshake deal with Charlie Finley in 1979 to move the Oakland A’s to New Orleans but he slept on it and changed his mind,” Curl said.

The Superdome has played host annually to Monster Jam for over three decades. Motocross has come to the Superdome 10 or 12 times over four decades, according to Thornton.

Since the Louisiana Superdome opened in 1975, we have seen other Domes, including the Astrodome (Houston), Metrodome (Minneapolis), Kingdome (Seattle), RCA Dome (Indianapolis), Silverdome (Pontiac/Detroit and soon, the Georgia Dome (Atlanta) come and go.

“You have to praise Governor (John) McKeithen and Dave Dixon,” Manning said. “Look at the number of Domed Stadiums that have been built and been torn down since the Superdome was built. I think we still have one of the top 10 facilities in the country. It’s been fun to watch it as a New Orleanian. It makes me feel to think that is 40 years.”

As a facility, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome remains a vibrant, viable facility. As its contemporaries have come and gone. The Superdome lives on as a legitimate, internationally respected sports facility.

“One of the great things about this building is that it has a very large volume of space within an enclosed area with over two million square feet of space which is along the lines of modern day stadiums,” Thornton said. “We’ve added seats, suites, club spaces and other amenities. We recently announced a $40 million upgrade, including our scoreboard system.”

With a storied past, Thornton sees an exciting future for the facility

“The Mercedes-Benz Superdome has never been better,” Thornton said. “The discussion for a new stadium will come but not for 10 to 15 years, in my opinion. This is still a great sports facility.”

This article is the second in a series of five to commemorate the opening of the Superdome on its 40th anniversary.

Part 1: The Origins
Part 2: The Tenants
Part 3: The Events
Part 4: Then & Now
Part 5: 10 Years After Katrina

  • < PREV

    Bucs LB Lavonte David agrees to 5-year contract extension

  • NEXT >

    McNeese ranked 25th in STATS FCS Preseason Football Poll

Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

CAO/Executive Producer

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College Hall of Fame, Professional Bowlers Tour) and many state and local awards for his work in the field, Ken currently serves as Sports Director of WGSO, 990 AM and hosts award-winning shows, including Ken Trahan’s Original Prep Football Report and The Three Tailgaters Show with Ed Daniels and Rick Gaille. In 1988, Ken was chosen by the Professional Bowlers Association to receive its annual radio broadcasters national award for…

Read more >