Second phase of Superdome upgrades nearly complete

Updated: July 12, 2007, 2:04 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- Less than a month before the Saints' first home exhibition game, the second phase of the Louisiana Superdome's $210 million face-lift is nearly complete.

The $30 million project, which began in January, is almost 90 percent done and on track to be finished before the Saints kick off Aug. 10 against the Buffalo Bills, said Doug Thornton, the regional vice president of SMG, the company that manages the Dome.

The work is part of a multiphase renovation that originally was budgeted to cost $187 million when work began in January 2006. However, soaring construction and deferred maintenance costs caused stadium and state officials to add a third and final phase to the project -- a $24 million job to repair and replace the building's exterior aluminum skin and add escalators to the outside of the club rooms. That work is expected to begin in January 2008 and be completed that summer.

In all, the Dome will eventually receive about $210 million in repairs and upgrades since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the building on Aug. 29, 2005.

"Every building in America has a point in its life cycle where it needs to be updated," Thornton said. "We have taken a significant step in modernizing the building to make it competitive with other facilities in the country. In a strange way, Katrina enabled us to do that because it allowed us to shut down the building for almost a year when we otherwise would not have been able to do so."

The centerpiece of the most recent project is the renovation of the club lounges, which are used to entertain team VIPs and premium-seat holders. Gone are the dark, cramped, outdated rooms that looked more like a grade-school auditorium. In their place are glitzy, modernized rooms with raised ceilings, leather sofas, flat-screen TVs and sleek glass, brushed aluminum and wood-grain furnishings.

The rooms have high-end concessions and bars and, for the first time, onsite cooking capability. Also, four 18-foot-by-24-foot windows will be added to each room, allowing natural light into that part of the building for the first time. That work is part of a third renovation, however, and likely won't be started until next offseason, Thornton said.

"Our goal was to make these rooms more inviting and more modern," Thornton said. "We wanted to create a high-end modern feel like you'd see in a high-end restaurant or five-star hotel in a stadium environment."

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.timespicayune.com


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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