Sugar Bowl staff returns to New Orleans, but not Dome

3/12/2006 - College Football

NEW ORLEANS -- Finally, the Sugar Bowl staff is home after
spending six weeks in limbo after Hurricane Katrina and six months
in Atlanta, where the bowl game was moved because of the damage to
the Louisiana Superdome.
Their offices in the Superdome remain closed, along with the
rest of the building, so Sugar Bowl staffers have moved into a
suite on the top floor of a building in Metairie.
Although the Superdome is scheduled to reopen in September, the
bowl offices will remain headquartered in Metairie through next
year's game.
"We'll get it all straightened out eventually," said
receptionist Kelli Bourgeois, one of eight staff members who lived
in an Atlanta hotel for six months, finally wrapping up business
there Feb. 23. "We're all glad to be back, but the reality hits
you that you now have to deal with everything every day.
"In Atlanta, you could put them aside because we were so
That, bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan said, makes him
deeply grateful for the work the group did in staging the game in a
strange setting.
"I give them a tremendous amount of credit," Hoolahan said.
"They put the bowl above their own personal problems and made it
something special. Everyone from top to bottom was impressed with
the job we did. It gave us a feeling that if we could handle this,
we can handle just about anything."
Good thing, because the bowl returns to a challenging situation,
and not just because of Katrina.
It's the first year of the new BCS double-hosting setup that
adds a fifth game, to be played a week before the championship game
at the same site.
The Sugar Bowl's turn to stage both games comes after the 2007
season, but already issues have popped up -- like finding out that
hotel space is harder to come by around the title game date of Jan.
Then there is dealing with Fox, which takes over the TV contract
from ABC, ending a 35-year association with the bowl.
There also will be a new title sponsor because Nokia ended its
relationship after 12 years. An announcement is expected within the
next two months.
A new automobile partner must be found as well, and many local
and regional sponsors are uncertain about renewing their ties.
And most daunting, the Sugar Bowl must increase its payment to
the BCS by 35 percent over the current undisclosed amount, even
though the new contract gives Fox some of the advertising and
sponsorship revenue that formerly went to the bowl.
A year ago, Hoolahan said the bowl would be raising its average
ticket price from $85 to $125. Now it might be more, although the
Superdome renovation prevents a ticket manifest from being drawn up
"We've got to figure out what the marketplace will bear," said
Hoolahan, adding that this year's game broke even rather than
turning a profit, which usually is the case in most
non-championship years. "But there is more than a little bit of
At least the Dome will be open, so there will be no having to
move the game to Tiger Stadium or even back to Atlanta. However,
the adjacent Hyatt Hotel, which serves as the media and title
sponsor hotel, is expected to still be out of commission.
"There's a lot of uncharted water we'll be trying to
navigate," Hoolahan said. "Just creating a new logo that
incorporates our new title sponsor is very time-consuming. We're
about a month behind, but sometimes it feels like more. In a lot of
areas, we're starting from scratch."