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Temporary Superdome repair to begin Saturday

NEW ORLEANS -- The Louisiana Superdome, which became a
symbol of the destruction wrought by the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina and a shelter for thousands displaced by the storm, is
scheduled to be temporarily repaired.

Repairs to gaping holes in the Superdome's massive roof were to
begin Saturday. A decision on full restoration will be made in
early November when an engineering study on the structural
integrity of the building is completed, said Tim Coulon, head of
the Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District, which oversees the
operation of the Superdome.

On Wednesday, an architectural firm will be selected to design
the prospective restoration of the stadium, home to the New Orleans Saints.

The inside of the Superdome was damaged so extensively by the
hurricane and subsequent vandalism that there was talk about
demolishing it altogether. Officials now say that is unlikely.

Dome officials have estimated it might take 16 months to make
the building functional, Jerry W. Jones, director of facility
planning and control, said Friday.

"But I think if we had a very aggressive effort, we could get
it back in 12 months," Jones said.

If the cost of restoration were 51 percent or more of what it
would cost to replace it -- something Coulon said they don't
anticipate -- the structure would be demolished and a new one built.

Replacing the Superdome would cost between $260 million and $270
million, he said. Initial estimates to restore the building place
the cost at more than $125 million.

"We don't know the exact scope of the work," Coulon said. "We
certainly want to restore it to pre-Katrina conditions. A decision
on whether we make improvements to facilitate using it as a shelter
should be made in the next three weeks."

The restoration process could include some of the things Saints
owner Tom Benson wanted, Coulon said.

"It may not be the total upgrade, but we will certainly have to
upgrade damaged suites and might include some seating upgrades,"
Coulon said. "It might be $30 [million] or $40 million, instead of
the entire package."

The Superdome was used as a shelter during Katrina, which struck
Aug. 29. As many as 30,000 people took refuge there for almost a
week. During that period, the power failed, leaving the interior
dark, hot and humid. Toilets backed up, refugees broke into
offices, luxury suites and restaurants, and garbage stacked up both
inside and outside.

The roof broke away in two places during the storm, allowing
rain to soak vast areas.

The adjacent New Orleans Arena, where the New Orleans Hornets
played, was used as a medical shelter. There was less damage to it,
although the locker rooms and first-floor storage area flooded.

The Saints have moved their operations to San Antonio and are
dividing home games between the Alamodome and Tiger Stadium in
Baton Rouge, La. The Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Bowl and Bayou
Classic, all played annually in the Superdome, have been moved to
other cities. The Hornets have moved their home games to Oklahoma
City.

The Saints have a contract with the state that runs through
2010, guaranteeing the team $186.5 million in state payments. Gov.
Kathleen Blanco had been attempting to re-negotiate the deal. Part
of that effort included a $174 million Superdome renovation.