Mercedes-Benz Superdome lights have endless possibilities

Published: Jul. 30, 2014 at 2:08 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 31, 2015 at 3:42 PM CDT
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The first light test on the Superdome
The first light test on the Superdome

The eye candy we enjoy against the new New Orleans skyline every night didn't just happen. Those lights bathing the Mercedes-Benz Superdome started as an idea. A local company stepped in with a plan to give one of the most recognized stadiums in the world an added "wow" factor.

Jonathan Foucheaux is like a wizard casting a colorful spell from the third floor roof of the Superdome. Foucheaux and his partner, Gary Solomon of Solomon Group, let this genie out of the bottle in 2011. Color that the dome never had before is now color that would be tough to live without.

The story began in 2010 when Superdome management contracted Solomon Group to create Champion Square.

"Everybody was thrilled with the way it came out," he said. "We looked at the Superdome and said 'man it's so dark.'"

Solomon Group set out to show the Superdome management what they could do to spruce up the dome.

"We brought out a couple of fixtures and we lit a tiny part of the Superdome about a year before it was revealed to the public.

They fell in love with that little sliver.

The big reveal was emotional for the native New Orleanian.

"It was one of the best days of my life on October 20, 2011, when we turned the lights on for the first time - it was incredible," Foucheaux said.

He walks through the halls of the Superdome and climbs through a trap door, revealing a view that most people will never see.

"You can really see how large these panels are when you're up close," he said.

You can see the mechanics behind the lights you see every night. Foucheaux says each of the  96 panels has three fixtures. The bottom lights the lower half, the middle lights the middle of this panel and the bottom lights the very top. Electrical contractors installed 288 of these LED fixtures around the dome.

"Each fixture has 22 four-color LED diodes. Each diode has red, green, blue and white," he said.

Each of the lights is numbered and pinpointed by location. The lights can be programmed from a small room in the Superdome.

"We don't use all combinations. We try to keep it subtle when there's no events going on. So, when it's exciting and there's an event it makes everybody look and ask what's going on at the dome tonight," he said.

It took five miles of electrical wire for these 20,000 LED lights. A projector called a Gobo projects the Mercedes-Benz image and others on the dome from 250 feet away.

The lights only require as much energy as it takes to light a generous size home every month, according to Foucheaux.

So, the next time you pass the Superdome, you'll know the backstory and all the hard work that went into making you smile.

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