The most recent images of the Superdome that many of us remember will include its use as an emergency shelter in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when it became a temporary (and damaged) home to 20,000 refugees. In the years since, the building, which opened in 1975, has benefitted from more than $500 million in renovations, some of which might be noticeable in the eight hours of network television coverage this Sunday.
Perhaps the most interesting of the renovations are those that can be witnessed during the 355 days when the Saints aren't playing a game. "Perhaps the biggest change in the way people experience the stadium is through Champions Square, 60,000 square feet of new public space replacing a retail facility that struggled to come back after Katrina," explains Byrnes.
"New Orleans is built around a series of public squares," says Ellerbe Becket's Paul Griesemer, "so it was only natural we add on to that history."
"The square has also allowed the city to make the Superdome and everything around it lively when there’s no football game. Champions Square hosts concerts and local food vendors, creating a contemporary public space that fits in with the city’s traditional urban forms better than its retail predecessor. Planners hope to see a residential component added in the future. Says Griesemer: 'It’s really a story of great fortitude for everyone who wanted to bring the dome back and make sports the anchor of the city again.'"