NEW ORLEANS — The state’s Superdome commission has finally agreed to compensate the city of New Orleans for taking a block of LaSalle Street to build Champions Square in 2011.
The Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District commission, which oversees the Superdome, Smoothie King Center and other venues, approved a resolution Thursday to pay the city $2.35 million in 10 installments over five years as compensation for developing on and shutting down vehicle access to a public street.
The LSED also agreed to reopen the stretch of LaSalle Street between Poydras and Girod streets to vehicle traffic starting Jan. 1, 2021, and then the city would go through normal temporary street closure procedures when there’s an event at Champions Square or a sporting event at the dome.
The board’s approval comes three years after a local blogger, Jason Brad Berry, first raised questions about why the city was never compensated for use of the street. He spoke exclusively to WWL-TV, which found that negotiations between the city and the Superdome commission broke down in 2010 and were never resolved.
The street was valued at $3.3 million in 2016. The $2.35 million agreement is a compromise that compensates the city for nine years of state control and includes returning daily use to the public next year.
LSED Chairman Kyle France acknowledged more costs may be paid by the state going forward to restore it as a public street. Champions Square, built as an outdoor concert and event venue after the New Orleans Saints won Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, is paved with bricks that run over the part that used to be a street and there are no curbs or gutters in the section that runs along the side of the Superdome.
When she was still a city councilwoman in 2017, Mayor LaToya Cantrell told WWL-TV a deal should have already been completed for LaSalle Street. But negotiations remained difficult after she took office in 2018. In May 2019, France said he thought a deal would be completed shortly.
Former State Senator J.P. Morrell, a member of the commission, praised France for sticking with the negotiations and encouraged him to work out a fair compromise for future use of the public right-of-way.
“I just don’t want anyone to be misled that this addresses the overall issue, it addresses the past issues and it puts us in a posture where we can talk about other issues going forward,” Morrell said.
“We will address the larger issue moving forward beyond December 2020 here in the next couple of months, but I think for now this is a great start and I’m happy that we’re here,” France said.