NEW ORLEANS -- As repairs continue on the hurricane-damaged Louisiana Superdome, dome officials hope to find a large corporation to buy naming rights to the facility before the New Orleans Saints' home opener on Sept. 25.
Dome managers and the state, which owns the Superdome, have tried to strike a naming rights deal for years and are currently working
with a team of sports marketing consultants.
Doug Thornton, the regional vice president of SMG, the company that manages the Superdome, said Tuesday that he is optimistic a naming sponsor could be lined up before the home-opening game against the Atlanta Falcons, but he would give no details.
Thornton made his remarks after a tour of the dome by NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Saints owner
Tagliabue and Benson said one of the biggest needs now is corporate support.
"We're working hard with the business community," Tagliabue said. "It's a great opportunity for large businesses,"
particularly those with a national presence, he said.
Tagliabue and Blanco both said they were pleased with progress at the dome, where more than 18,000 of the city's residents sweltered for days following Hurricane Katrina.
The facility's 9.7-acre roof had to be replaced and 4,000 tons of trash and debris removed, along with 1.6 million square feet of
carpeting, 650,000 square feet of wall board and 500,000 square
feet of ceiling tiles.
Tagliabue said during prior visits, he had concerns about how long it might take to get the facility reopened. After Tuesday's tour, Tagliabue said he's encouraged and even surprised.
"I think there are some terrific features in the renovation,"
he said, describing an overhaul of the Superdome's concession areas
and luxury suites. "There's a feeling of openness, freshness."
Blanco described the transformation as "nothing short of a miracle" and a symbol not only of tragedy but rebirth.
Tagliabue said he was pleased with the team's season ticket sales of 55,000 so far for the coming season. That figure, released a few weeks ago, is a record high for the franchise.
"Fan support is reflected in the season ticket sales," Tagliabue said.
The Saints are entering the sixth year of a 10-year lease agreement with the state that expires after the 2010 season.
Before Katrina, naming rights for the Superdome were projected to bring in $3 million a year.