NEW ORLEANS — Superdome managers now have the green light to begin a new round of major renovations to the 44-year-old building.
Thursday, the Louisiana Bond Commission approved the plan to borrow the money to make the upgrades needed to lock the Saints in New Orleans, long term.
Saints President Dennis Lauscha told the commission, neither the team, nor the state can afford the $2 billion price tag for a new stadium.
"We've done a number of polling of our fans," Lauscha said. "We've done polling of Louisiana residents and overwhelmingly people like the Superdome. That's our home. We love it too."
Lauscha appeared before the commission along side Superdome managers.
They went to Baton Rouge for permission to sell bonds that would help finance $450 million improvements and upgrades to the dome.
The project is a major part of the negotiations to keep the Saints in Louisiana for the next 30-years.
"I go around talking to other folks with brand new buildings," Lauscha said. "There is no better than what we have after this renovation to be perfectly honest with you."
The commission approved the financing without opposition.
"This is a major step forward for the project," said Doug Thornton, Executive VP of SMG, the company that runs the Superdome and Smoothie King Arena.
Thornton added, the improvements will extend the life of the dome.
"There will be a time when we have to address the question of a new stadium," Thornton admitted. "But, it's not now. It's not in the next 15 years, the next 20 years in our opinion."
The dome now has the financing to remove 80,000 square feet of interior ramps.
That would open up space to widen concourses and create more concession areas and club lounges.
There would also be new field level luxury boxes and new locker rooms.
A new food service area and kitchen space are also in the plans.
Dome managers are also promising a new arrival experience for fans. There are plans to eventually remove the existing Gate A ramps in front of the dome on Poydras Street.
"Using what is now Sugar Bowl Drive as a pedestrian plaza which will become an unbelievable front door for the facility and have two main entrances right there at the corner of where the garages are now," Thornton said. That allows you to have easy access to all the spaces of the dome through vertical transportation. We're increasing the escalators, elevators."
As part of the financing deal, The Saints have agreed to fund a third of the project costs.
"We are 100 percent committed to this market, 100 percent committed to this state," Lauscha said. "We want to be here. That's why we're putting up $150 million.
The LSED, also known as the Superdome Commission will fund $210 million through issuing bonds.
The state would cover the remaining $90 million.
Work is now expected to begin after this football season and continue over the next three off-seasons.