Superdome turns 40!

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Superdome managers are now putting the finishing touches on an all-new field as they prepare for the upcoming Saints season and a big birthday.

On Monday, the Superdome celebrates 4o years as a major feature of the city's skyline and in the city's psyche. It remains a stadium unlike any other, but when it was opened 40 years ago, the Dome was unsurpassed.

" Many of the domed stadiums that came after the Superdome - the Metrodome, Silverdome, Kingdome - they are all gone now," said Doug Thornton, vice president of SMG, the company that manages the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

When the dome opened on Aug. 3, 1975, Bob Hope entertained. And between then and now, there have been countless events that have made the city and the stadium inseparable.

"I think of the Pope's visit in '86, the Republican National Convention in '88. I  think of the multiple Super Bowls," Thornton said.

More Super Bowls, in fact, than any other venue.  LSU won two national championships here, and there have been countless other major sporting events.

"The Ali-Spinks fight comes to mind, the Michael Jordan shot in 1982 to win the Final Four," Thornton said. "I think of the NFC Championship with the Saints, I think of the first game after Katrina."

In that game in which Steve Gleason blocked an Atlanta punt, a boom was heard round the world, announcing New Orleans was back.

"We needed to get people back to work in New Orleans so they could have jobs and rebuild their neighborhoods," Thornton said.

The design of the building had a major impact on other sports facilities.

"The Superdome was designed with these mid-tier suites, 64 at opening, now double that number," Thornton said.

At 2 million square feet, the Superdome was twice as big as the Astrodome, the only other domed stadium in the country at the time. Its size allowed for myriad of features that were copied by other stadiums and keep the Dome viable today.

"There will come a point in time where we have to have a conversation about the Dome. Now is not the time. We don't need to have it for many years," said Thornton.

The new turf is in for the Saints' 40th season, and SMG officials say the venerable facility has never looked better.

SMG got its start here in 1997 as the Hyatt management company. The Dome was its first client.  SMG now manages 243 entertainment venues across the globe.

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