Dome sweet Dome: The birth of the Superdome — and a New Orleans landmark
Nearly three years after its hoped-for opening date and more than $100 million over budget, the Louisiana Superdome opened on Aug. 3, 1975, when 45,000 people showed up for a massive open house. A cavalcade of events followed, including a concert with the Allman Brothers and the Marshall Tucker Band, and six performances of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The star of the circus was the high-wire daredevil Philippe Petit, who, without a net, walked a 700-foot cable 200 feet above the stadium’s concrete floor.
The stadium, which became the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 2011, is an accepted part of the New Orleans skyline, the home for football and basketball games, concerts, conventions and graduations. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which trashed the massive arena, the Superdome became a shelter for thousands of people who had nowhere else to go. It remained closed for more than a year, during which time it underwent a $200 million facelift before reopening to great fanfare on Sept. 25, 2006.
- When the stadium opened, its cost was estimated at $163 million, which is nearly $736.4 million in 2017 dollars.
- “A bargain,” said local civic leader Dave Dixon years later in reflecting on the building whose construction he spearheaded. “That building has changed New Orleans, and it can do more.”
- The Superdome’s vast roof measures 9.7 acres – 440,000 square feet – and its diameter is 680 feet.
- The Dome’s list of attractions is nothing if not eclectic: The Republican Party held its 1988 convention there, the Rolling Stones packed the place three times, Muhammad Ali defeated Leon Spinks to regain the world heavyweight crown, Olympic legend Nadia Comaneci executed a perfect 10 on the balance beam, and Pope John Paul II addressed three groups in the arena during his 1987 visit.
- The stadium is home to the Sugar Bowl, Bayou Classic and New Orleans Bowl, and it has been host to seven Super Bowls, the men’s and women’s Final Four college basketball games, and the annual Essence Festival.
- In addition to the Saints, the Superdome has served as home field for the New Orleans VooDoo and the New Orleans Night, both of the Arena Football League; the New Orleans Breakers of the USFL; the Tulane University Green Wave; the New Orleans Jazz of the NBA; and, for a single season in 1977, the New Orleans Pelicans, a minor-league baseball team.
- In 2016, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
For three decades, the Superdome had been the rallying spot for Who Dat Nation, the place where Saints fans faithfully gathered, many wearing crazy costumes, to watch the team play. But on Sept. 25, 2006, when the Saints returned to the Dome for the first time since Katrina to play the Atlanta Falcons, the stadium became a place of reaffirmation as the city and its residents, many still living in FEMA trailers, struggled to rebuild. Emotions were high, and they bubbled over when the Saints’ Steve Gleason blocked a Falcons punt and Curtis Deloatch went on to score for the Saints. The Saints never stopped, eventually winning 23-3, proving to a skeptical world that the team, and New Orleans, were on the way back.