Katie Moore / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- Are you ready for some football? Is the the Louisiana Superdome?
What was, for some, a symbol of suffering after Hurricane Katrina is now a state-of-the-art stadium. The Louisiana landmark is scheduled to be re-dedicated Wednesday before Friday's Saints preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
From the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina to the triumph of the Saints’ historic Super Bowl run, the Louisiana Superdome has seen it all.
“I think every New Orleanian should be proud of what has been achieved here. It's a testament to the human spirit,” said Doug Thornton, vice-president of the company that runs the Superdome.
He helped bring the 'Dome back after Katrina, and now, he said he thinks it's better than before.
“You can actually see the field from the concourse, whereas in the old days, you had to walk across the bridge,” Thornton said.
From the sight line to the lines of seats, the lower bowl was re-engineered in the off season to add 3,400 new seats and add revenue. It's now more of a rectangle, whereas the upper levels remain ovals.
With three days left until the first preseason Saints game, finishing touches were put on the field’s new turf on Tuesday.
According to Thornton, replacing the turf every year is easier and more cost-effective than trying to maintain it. A new field costs SMG around $200,000.
“We call this area the porch. This is the area just outside the club lounge,” Thornton said as he gave WWL-TV a sneak peak at the Superdome’s improvements Tuesday.
The facility now has two so-called “bunker clubs” underneath the club-level seats.
Since Katrina, the 'Dome has cost the state $336 million and $85 million of that paid for the new renovations that are just about finished.
“Champions Square will not be ready for this first preseason game. It was never intended to be. Our construction schedule did not have it slated for completion until late August,” he said.
A large construction crane is still planted in the middle of what used to be LaSalle Street, and work crews not only try to finish a grand staircase up to the outdoor plaza level, but they’re repaving the road to make it a pedestrian pathway.
Thornton said the weather has caused a slight delay, but it should open by the second preseason game.
Governor Bobby Jindal is scheduled to re-dedicate the Louisiana Superdome on Wednesday with Thornton, Saints owner Tom Benson and Chairman of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District Ron Forman.
Even with all the last-minute work still buzzing around the facility, Thornton said he’s proud of the project.
“Certainly, it's a very proud moment for all of us,” he said.
Champions Square will feature festival-type food and drink in tents, similar to 2010, according to Thornton.
SMG is in talks with vendors to provide permanent restaurant stations inside the old Macy's food court at the old New Orleans Centre Mall.
Construction on that is expected to start during the season, wrapping up before New Orleans hosts the Sugar Bowl.