Dome Ahead Of Schedule

Repairs on the Louisiana Superdome are ahead of schedule, SMG and stadium officials told media during a May 25th tour of the building, and will be ready for the New Orleans Saints home opener September 25th.

More than half of the 9.7-acre roof has been replaced as workers cut out decking one small section at a time and install new sheets of galvanized steel.

The construction zone may still look like a mess to the average observer, but a massive amount of cleanup and repair has taken place over the last six months.

Examples include the removal of 4,000 tons of trash and debris, 1.6 million square feet of carpeting, 650,000 square feet of wall board and 500,000 square feet of ceiling tiles. About 70,000 seats have been cleaned and dried.

The field won’t go in as long as the concrete floor supports cranes, stacks of roof decking and other construction material.

The total cost of the project will run about $185.4 million. Of that, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is paying about $120 million. The NFL is pitching in with multimillion dollar grants to be used to dress up suites and premium seating areas.

The stadium will be “football ready,” according to team officials, when the Saints go marching into the Superdome August 25th for their home opener against the Atlanta Falcons. Work is scheduled to continue through the season and into the following summer, wrapping up around the start of the 2007 season.

When the stadium is finished, it will look much the same as it did before Hurricane Katrina. The three-level seating plan will be the same. Scoreboard video screens behind each end zone will be enlarged.

Concourses and concession stands are being upgraded with stainless steel features meant to provide a clean, freshly rebuilt feel, said Paul Griesemer, the project’s architectural director from Ellerbe Becket.

Superdome officials said more than 80 percent of concession areas will be open by the first game. All bathrooms will be clean and working. All seating, including suites, will be available.

In another revitalization project in downtown New Orleans, plans and funding for a 20-acre, multipurpose National Jazz Center and park has been submitted by Strategic Hotels & Resorts, the Chicago-based owner of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans Hotel.

The $715 million project is the first major redevelopment project announced since Katrina, according to the Times-Picayune, and will create an entertainment district adjacent to the Superdome.

Under the plan, 1 million square feet of public buildings including City Hall, court buildings, state offices, a parking garage and the old New Orleans Centre would be demolished to make way for a park anchored by the National Jazz Center.

The multilevel park would include a 20,000-square-foot, 1,000-capacity jazz performance center, 300-capacity theatre, 70,000-square-foot amphitheatre with lawn seating, and children’s education center, rehearsal studio and an archive for jazz research, according to the paper.

A bridge would connect the Superdome to the park, which will double as a tailgating area for football fans. A streetcar line also would be extended to connect the Superdome, New Orleans Arena, offices and park with the French Quarter and Convention Center.

Strategic has so far committed $430 million to financing of the project.