NEW ORLEANS — An independent engineering firm has been hired to look into what caused the 34-minute power outage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during Super Bowl XLVII, officials said Tuesday.
The move comes as both sides, Superdome managing group SMG and power entity Entergy, attempt to have transparency in what continues to resonate nationally.
“Entergy is our partner here in the city and it’s important for us to have total transparency and we have agreed among ourselves that we’ll exchange records,” SMG vice president Doug Thornton said.
Though they’re bringing in an outside firm, Thornton said there isn’t any disagreement between those running the Superdome and Entergy, including Entergy-New Orleans president Charles Rice.
“Quite the contrary,” he said. “We’ve been in close communication. Charles was there when the outage occurred on Sunday evening. We conferred with his people on site. I have to applaud them for getting the power restored to the building so quickly. Our teams jointly went to work together.”
Meanwhile, Thornton acknowledged that there some electrical issues in the weeks preceding the game, though none had to do with the power outage, he said.
“Yes, we had a couple of fuses blown. There were a couple of circuits overloaded,” Thornton said. “But it had nothing to do with this power outage. It’s totally unrelated. Those are common occurrences when we deal with show producers or anyone that comes into the building that is not accustomed to being there and does not know the circuitry of the building.”
Sunday’s outage occurred less than two minutes into the second half Sunday night, just after Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones gave the Ravens a 28-6 lead with a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
A switch located at an Entergy substation off of Superdome grounds opened, shutting down power to the west side of the Superdome. The switch had been upgraded by Entergy recently. In coordination with that upgrade, feeder cables were upgraded from the Superdome to the substation. In all $1.2 million was spent on the upgrades.
“There was nothing wrong with previous cables but we wanted to assure 100 percent reliability and that’s why we installed the new feeder cables,” Thornton said. “We do not believe at this point that those are the root cause of this problem. But we will be investigating it and testing it just to be certain.”
Added Rice, “Right now I think it would be premature for any of us to make any statement as to what exactly happened. I can tell you this – we will leave no stone unturned as to find out what exactly happened.”
The NFL said it was aware of the upgrades prior to the game.
“SMG and others kept us apprised and those reports gave us no real cause for concern,” said Eric Grubman, the NFL’s vice president of business operations. “It is natural and understandable for energy suppliers to be concerned prior to a huge event. If an engineer is asked whether something is 100 percent failsafe, an engineer will normally say, ‘No, there is always a risk of failure.’ ”
Officials were worried about the possibility of a power failure, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said – “Of course it’s on the list of things you worry about and have nightmares about. Sometimes they come true.” – and workers at the Superdome had prepared for the possibility.
“We drilled for it. We prepared for it,” Thornton said. “We actually went through a series of exercises as we do with a number of different emergency preparedness initiatives to prepare for this game and I think this was evident in the way we restored power so quickly.”