Superdome Repairs Begin

The Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, ravaged first by Hurricane Katrina and then by the housing of up to 30,000 storm evacuees, made its first steps toward recovery with the start of temporary repairs to holes in the structure’s massive roof.

An architectural firm was to be selected to come up with a restoration plan soon after the repairs began October 15th.

Despite suggestions that the Dome would have to be demolished after Katrina left the venue waterlogged and vandalized, officials are looking into a full restoration. A decision is expected in November when an engineering study on the structural integrity of the building is completed.

Officials at the SMG-managed Superdome have estimated it could take 16 months before the stadium is operational as home to the NFL’s Saints, the Sugar Bowl and other major events.

“But I think if we had a very aggressive effort, we could get it back in 12 months,” said Jerry Jones, director of facility planning and control.

If the cost of restoration were 51 percent or more of what it would cost to replace it, the structure would be demolished and a new one built. Estimates for replacing the Superdome fall between $260 million and $270 million, while estimates to restore the building were around $125 million.

The adjacent New Orleans Arena, where the NBA’s Hornets played, was used as a medical shelter during the catastrophe. 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, Texas, and are dividing home games between the Alamodome and Louisiana State University’s 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 renegotiate the deal. Part of that effort included $174 million for Superdome renovations.