- Lloyd Brown
Caesars Superdome – New Orleans Saints
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43
Caesars Superdome 1500 Sugar Bowl Dr New Orleans, LA 70112
Year Opened: 1975
The Dome That Sets The Tone
Note: The stadium name changed from Mercedes-Benz Superdome to Caesars Superdome July, 2021.
While the Mercedes-Benz Superdome opened many years after the Houston Astrodome, it certainly has set the tone for all domed football stadiums that have followed. Its’ durability, resilience and history of hosting the country’s premier sporting events is unparalleled. Since opening in 1975, it has hosted more Super Bowls (7) than any other venue. In addition, it has been the site of 5 Men’s Final Four’s (with another one set for 2022), 5 NCAA Men’s Regionals and 3 BCS College Football Championship Games.
It is the largest fixed dome structure in the world and can seat 73,208 for football, 67,500 for a Final Four or nearly 80,000 for concerts. The stadium features 153 luxury suites, 2 premier club lounges and 4 club rooms that can be used for a variety of functions. The original synthetic grass surface on the field was known as “Mardi Grass”, but it was replaced post-Katrina by the latest in artificial turf in 2010. Since tailgating in the traditional sense is not allowed at the Superdome, the venue added Champions Square in 2010 as a place for fans to gather before the game and enjoy food, drink, music and all that New Orleans is known for. This has become New Orleans major outdoor gathering spot throughout the year, as it hosts concerts, community events and other annual observances.
In 2005, the Superdome switched gears to become the “Refuge of Last Resort” for more than 30,000 locals who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Though not designed for that purpose, it was a lifeline during the less than ideal response by all levels of the government. The facility was heavily damaged by the storm and the Saints were forced to play the remainder of the 2005 season on the road while the stadium was repaired. The team returned to the Superdome in September 2006 for a nationally televised game against the Atlanta Falcons. During that game, a Falcons punt was blocked by the Saints’ Steve Gleason. This play has been immortalized as the “rebirth” of the city following the devastation of Katrina. That season the Saints went on to win their division and play in the NFC Conference Championship game. Just one year later they would go one to win their one and only Super Bowl.
Food & Beverage 4
New Orleans is one of the culinary capitals in this country and the Saints know it. As a result, the concession offerings are heavily weighted towards local specialties. Parrish Grill serves up such items as shrimp po’ boys, catfish and seafood nachos while Poydras Street Po’ Boys serves po’ boys with prime rib, pork and roast beef options. There are many specialty carts which offer regional fare. The most unique amongst these are the Cajun Corner carts. They offer Cajun staples such as jambalaya, crawfish and Cajun sausages made of various meats. For the adventurous try the grilled alligator variety of sausage (it does not taste like chicken!) For those more at home with standard stadium fare, head to the King’s Table, Royal Feast or Saint Jack’s BBQ. Here you will find the basics of hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels and hamburgers.
Fans do not have to wait until after the game to get their adult beverages. New Orleans’ legendary Pat O’Briens has its own stand, which offers its famed Hurricanes, Daiquiris and other exotic drinks. There is a wide selection of both domestic and premium beers as well as craft brews available at nearly every stand.
Tailgating in the traditional form is not allowed at the Superdome as much of the parking is in confined parking decks adjacent to the stadium. However, this does not impede from “les bon temps roulette” or letting the good times roll. Since 2010, they have been heading to the Champions Square area located just outside the stadium. It is truly a New Orleans street party atmosphere with dancing, jazz bands, lots of food and drink and plenty of free giveaways from local vendors. This space has become so popular that it is used year-round for a variety of community events.
Once inside the Dome, the party really gets started, as the fans are loose and ready for some for football. You will hear “When the Saints Go Marching In” after every home score, and the chant “Who dat” used in several situations that arise during the game. Halftimes often feature one of the high stepping bands from one of the many local HCBU’s which really keep the fans in their seats during the break.
We will discuss at more length in the Fan section, but for Saints fans every Sunday is Halloween. You have never seen such an array of gold and black outfits in all your life. Add the bands, the cheers and the outfits together and confine it within a domed stadium and you have one loud place to distract the opposition.
The Mercedes- Benz Superdome is in the Central Business District (CBD) area of New Orleans. It is primarily a business area with few tourist attractions. However, it is located less than two miles from the sights most people are acquainted with in the Big Easy, including Bourbon Street, Jackson Square, the Garden District and the Mississippi Riverfront. New Orleans is an epicurean’s delight and we would not presume to cover all the wonderful options for dining in the area. Two options you might want to consider are Café DuMonde on Jackson Square for a pregame beignet on Sunday morning. It is truly a tradition to sample one of these powdered sugar delights. The second spot is part of Chef Emeril Lagasse’s culinary empire and is simply called NOLA. It offers a casual menu filled with Cajun and seafood specialties.
Lodging in New Orleans is plentiful, as the city still is rebuilding its tourism industry following Katrina. The two best located hotels for the Mercedes- Benz Superdome are the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, which is located next door to the Dome and the Holiday Inn New Orleans Superdome on Loyola Avenue.
There are so many attractions in the New Orleans area it is impossible to list them all in this article. We have decided to highlight two attractions, one of which is uniquely New Orleans and one that is new to the city, but offers a quality experience. The first “must do” is a visit to Preservation Hall on Saint Peters Street. Jazz originated in New Orleans and the place to immerse yourself in its’ “church”. Shows occur 4 times a day, 7 days a week and feature everything from the actual Preservation Hall Jazz Band itself to up and coming jazz musicians. New Orleans is also home to the fairly new National World War II Museum on Magazine Street. All of us had some member of our family from the Greatest Generation take part in this worldwide conflict. The museum mixes a vast array of military equipment from the era with taped recollections from those who served. You will come away from the museum with a greater sense of the sacrifice all Americans made in the war effort.
The fanbase in New Orleans has come a long way from the days of the “Aints”, when fans wore bags over their heads. Coach Sean Payton and Drew Brees have turned the city and the fanbase around with a combination of winning football and very active civic involvement. Oddly enough, Hurricane Katrina seemed to be the turning point. The Saints organization was very active in relief efforts, both through philanthropy and through visits to the communities most affected by the storm to show that they cared. This really built a bond between the team and its residents. The team also took off on an upward trend in the first season at home after Katrina, making it all the way to the NFC Championship game. The following season the Saints won their first and only Super Bowl Championship over the Indianapolis Colts. There have been some up and down years recently, but the fans support has never wavered.
Saints fans are boisterous and intimidating, but they are good natured as well. They love to dress up in the most frightening attire outside of the Oakland Raiders, but hey this is the home of the Mardi Gras, where everyone is expected to dress up.
By far the biggest rivalry for the Saints is with the Atlanta Falcons. They play in the same division, joined the NFL at approximately the same time, and are geographically close. This means both teams travel well, with large numbers of fans traveling to the opposing city. The Saints fans thrive on this rivalry, with trash talk starting the week before the game. However, once the game is over, win or lose, everyone heads over to Bourbon Street, where the loser buys a drink for the winner.
When legislators voted to approve the building of the Superdome back in the 1970’s, they had two main concerns concerning location. First of all, for safety reasons it needed to be far enough back from the Mississippi riverfront to avoid frequent flooding. Their second concern was that be easily accessible for fans to get to. This concern arose because the original Sugar Bowl Stadium was at the Tulane University campus, which was surrounded by narrow residential streets and often had traffic gridlocked.
The final site selected has been proven to be very accessible, as it is just off both I -10 and Highway 90, both main thoroughfares. The area surrounding the stadium has space for more than 20,000 cars and is quite accessible by both streetcar and the local transit system. It is also close enough to many of the large convention hotels, so that it is one of the easiest NFL stadiums to reach on foot.
The immediate area surrounding the stadium is elevated well above the surrounding streets due to flooding concerns. To overcome this challenge a number of ramps have been added in addition to steps to make the stadium more accessible to those with disabilities. Inside the Superdome the concourses are somewhat narrow, especially on the lower levels. The stadium has six levels, but the journey is made somewhat less arduous by gently sloping ramps between levels and an upper concourse to assist those in the highest reaches of the stadium.
Return on Investment 4
The Saints have sold out every game on a season ticket basis since 2006. This does not mean no tickets are available or that tickets on the secondary market are impossible to get. Often you can find tickets priced in the $60- 100 range in the upper levels of the stadium. You can expect lots close in to the Superdome to cost between $25-30. You can save yourself quite a bit of money by taking the Canal Street streetcar to and from the game. A one-day unlimited ride fare costs you only $3.00. Hotels can be quite pricey close in to the stadium and in the tourist areas of New Orleans. The further you get from these areas you get, the cheaper the room rate. You will still be able to get to the game in less than 30 minutes from anywhere in the greater New Orleans metro area. Concessions can be expensive, but the food offerings at Saints games are so unique to the region that it is worth the extra cost.
In addition to Saints home games, the Superdome hosts the Sugar Bowl, the Bayou Classic (Grambling vs Southern University), the Louisiana Prep Classic and New Orleans Bowl football games on an annual basis.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome supports area charities by illuminating the stadium with graphics and the charities’ colors to create greater awareness of their various causes.
A statue entitled “Rebirth” is prominently on Champions Plaza. It depicts the play of Steve Gleason which signaled the return of New Orleans post-Katrina. Today it has a dual meaning, as it recognizes Gleason’s courageous battle against ALS.
There some interesting exhibits located just inside the following main gates: Gate A- Katrina: One Year in the Making, Gate B- New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame, Gate E- Louisiana High School Football Helmet display, Gate G- Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame.
Smoothie King Center, the home of the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, is located next door to the Superdome.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome sets the tone for all the domed stadiums that have followed it. Despite being nearly 45 years old, the stadium remains one of the busiest and most successful venues in the NFL. It is unique in that there is no groundswell to replace the stadium due to its age, as the people of New Orleans see it as a symbol of New Orleans resurgence following Hurricane Katrina. It suits them just fine.