Mercedes-Benz Superdome – New Orleans Saints
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As a rule, football stadiums, at least professional football stadiums, are not as revered as their baseball brethren. To every rule, there is an exception, and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans is certainly one. Instantly recognizable in any shot of the New Orleans skyline, the Superdome has hosted more big events than any other stadium in the United States.
The Superdome was first conceived when New Orleans was making their pitch for an expansion team in the National Football League. After being told that the NFL would never expand into Louisiana without a domed stadium, city leaders toured the Houston Astrodome. Governor John McKeithen stated, “I want one of these, only bigger”. Funding was approved soon afterwards.
The Superdome became perhaps the most visible symbol of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, as it was used as a “shelter of last resort” for those who were unable to evacuate the city. The structure itself was heavily damaged by the storm, and the facility was overwhelmed by persons seeking shelter. After the storm, the Superdome required $185 million in repairs. The Saints return to the city and unexpected success served to help revitalize the city and strengthen the bond between team, fans and facility.
Since 2010, the Superdome has undergone further renovations to increase seating, widen plaza level concourses, and add additional concessions and club lounges. Larger video boards have been added and the lighting has been upgraded throughout the facility. In addition, wifi capability was added and electronics were improved.
Food & Beverage 4
With the exception of a few locally inspired items, the concessions at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome may not overly impress. However, these items that are unique to the Superdome are more than enough to give the concessions here an above average rating.
Permanent stands line the outer edge of the concourses, and include Saint Jack’s BBQ, Royal Feast and Jester’s Spread. All the standard stadium favorites can be found at these stands, including hot dogs, burgers, and that New Orleans favorite, the Po’ Boy, served in varieties such as roast beef or pulled pork. Check out the loaded baked potato, the BBQ tacos or the loaded BBQ nachos at Saint Jack’s BBQ.
Lining the inner edge of the concourse are portable carts which greatly enhance the culinary choices available. Nawlins Nachos, Super Pretzels, Geaux Nuts, Point After Popcorn, and Market Fresh (sandwiches and wraps) are among the many stands to be found.
For the most unique culinary experience in the Superdome, head to the Cajun Corner carts, where the offerings include Jambalaya served with a sausage link, grilled alligator sausage po’ boy, creole crawfish pie and Cajun meat pie. In addition to being the most unique items available, they appeared to be the most popular, as well.
Of course, in New Orleans you would expect the selection of adult beverages to be among the highlights of the menu, and the Superdome does not disappoint. In contrast with most stadiums, mixed drinks and other cocktails take center stage here. Local favorite Pat O’Brien’s operates a stand which sells their legendary Hurricanes, the Crown Royal Lounge is a popular destination, and stands specializing in frozen Daiquiris and margaritas are common. Fans wanting a cold beer will be happy to find mainstream brands such as Budweiser and Coors Light at most stands, along with portable carts featuring local craft brews.
While the Saints’ recent struggles on the field have had a dampening effect on the overall atmosphere at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, you would be hard pressed to find a fan base as passionate about their team as the fans of Who Dat Nation.
The Superdome’s downtown location means that open spaces for tailgating are at a premium. The team and city have come up with a creative solution to this dilemma with Champions Square, an open air plaza filled with live music, frosty drinks, and lots of food. Outside of football season, Champions Square hosts outdoor concerts, festivals and other events. Adjacent to Champions Square is Club XLIV, an air conditioned lounge featuring high end furnishings, flat screen televisions and more food.
The Saints keep the energy level high before the game, as the team takes the field to an elaborate presentation, including pyrotechnics. Prior to the opening kickoff, a Saints player heads to midfield and raises a fist. When he drops it, the entire crowd erupts into the “Who Dat” chant. Of course, after scores you will hear “When the Saints go Marching In”.
There is music aplenty here, and not just the stuff piped in over the PA system. The Fat City Drum Corps perform at the two minute warning, and there is always a sterling performance from a local marching band at halftime. In addition, a brass band roams the stands playing throughout the game. Does anything scream “New Orleans” more than that?
Giant scoreboards are located on either end of the Superdome, and they do an excellent job keeping Saints fans involved in the game throughout. Fans can follow along with the Saints GameDay app, check for Twitter updates, look for themselves on the Fan Cam, purchase 50/50 tickets, or get giveaways from the Saints promotional team.
When the Saints start rolling, 72,000 fans in an enclosed stadium can make an awful lot of noise. Saints fans don’t need any prompting or help in creating one of the best home field advantages in the NFL.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is located in the Central Business District of New Orleans, about a mile from the world famous French Quarter and Bourbon Street. Adjecent to the Superdome is the Smoothie King Center, home of the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans. While the area immediately surrounding the Superdome cannot be described as bustling, there are a few places in the area favored by locals. Walk Ons pub was named as the best sports bar in the nation in 2015 by ESPN, and features a standard pub style menu, an extensive beer list and numerous televisions through the facility.
If visiting from out of town, you will undoubtedly be visiting the French Quarter and Bourbon Street. Beyond the French Quarter, there is no shortage of places to stay, eat or visit in New Orleans. If spending any length of time in New Orleans, be sure to check out the World War 2 Museum, one of the best museums in the nation. Architecture junkies will want to tour the Garden District, home to one of the largest collections of historic mansions in the southern United States. Of course, New Orleans is best known for its party and music scenes. The list of things to do and places to go here are endless. New Orleans Online is a good place to start exploring the countless attractions this city has to offer before your visit.
By any measure, Saints fans are among the most loyal, dedicated and passionate in the league. The team routinely fills the Superdome to capacity. Virtually every souvenir shop in town sports some sort of black and gold merchandise.
For the longest time, the term “long suffering” was invariably used when talking about Saints fans. The team suffered through 21 straight non-winning seasons before finally breaking through with a 12-3 record in 1987. It took another 13 seasons for the team to experience their first playoff win. The Saints win in Super Bowl XLIV permanently removed the descriptor for Saints fans.
Greater New Orleans rallied around the team in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the Superdome became a symbol of the city’s rebirth. The team erected a statue outside of the Superdome entitled “Rebirth”, in which Steve Gleason’s iconic blocked punt during the Saints’ first game back at the Superdome after Katrina is immortalized. Gleason’s post-football struggles with ALS continue to inspire.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is located in the Central Business District of New Orleans, about a mile from the famed French Quarter. Located at the junction of Interstate 10 and Route 90, the Superdome is easy to get to, although traffic does back up around gametime.
Fans utilizing public transportation will be pleased to learn that there are bus stops on Poydras Street adjacent to the Superdome. Streetcars stop on nearby Loyola Avenue. New Orleans’ Amtrak station and Greyhound depot are within a short walking distance of the Superdome.
Parking around the Superdome is plentiful, with several parking garages located within a few blocks of the stadium. Some of the garages are attached to the Superdome itself. As any veteran fan will tell you, while these garages may be convenient, getting in and out of them can be a slow process, further backing up traffic in the immediate area. Your best bet would be to arrive early to the game and find a lot a little further from the Superdome. The inconvenience of a longer walk to the stadium will more than make up for the wait to exit the parking garages after the game.
To arrive at the plaza that surrounds the Superdome, fans must climb steps or ramps. There are several entrances into the stadium, and lines move fairly quickly, especially by NFL standards. Fans enter the Superdome on the plaza (100) level. Ramps and escalators lead up to the club and terrace levels.
The uppermost seating, the terrace (600) level, is very high and very far from the field, as you may expect from a seating section numbered in the 600’s. In fact, the uppermost seats in the terrace level have their own concourse and escalators to save fans from climbing 20 or 30 rows worth of seats. Despite the sheer enormity of the Superdome, all seats have good views of the action.
Unfortunately, the concourses are fairly narrow, meaning that it can be tough to get around at times, particularly during halftime. Restrooms, while clean, are on the small side, so time your trips carefully.
Return on Investment 4
Going to an NFL game is rarely a bargain, but heading to a game in New Orleans is cheaper than many. According to the Team Marketing Report’s Fan Cost Index, going to a Saints game is just above average for NFL teams. While the average ticket cost is a bit below average, above average concessions and souvenirs raise the overall prices a bit. With all Saints games selling out since 2006, visiting fans will have to search the secondary market for deals. Fortunately, if you are willing to sit in the terrace level, bargains can be found. Terrace Level seats can be found from $50-$75. Parking in the lots surrounding the Superdome will cost between $20-$35.
Largest fixed dome stadium-the Superdome’s 680 feet diameter roof makes it the largest fixed domed structure in the world. The facility’s frame covers an amazing 13 acres. It’s design makes it instantly recognizable by even casual football fans, and is an iconic part of the New Orleans skyline.
History/hall of fame-Several banners hang from the Superdome rafters honoring division, conference, and the Saints’ lone Super Bowl title. The Saints Ring of Honor lines the façade of the Terrace seating level, and the Saints Hall of Fame is located near the Gate B entrance.
Statues-The Saints have erected two statues, one of owner Tom Benson holding the Saints’ lone Super Bowl trophy, and the other of Steve Gleason’s iconic blocked punt from the first game back in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Big events-The Superdome has hosted seven Super Bowls, five Final Fours, four BCS Championship Games, and countless other big events, both in the sports and entertainment worlds. No facility has as much big game experience as the Superdome.
Party atmosphere/champions square-Just a mile from the Superdome is the legendary Bourbon Street and French Quarter. The non-stop party atmosphere travels from the French Quarter to the Superdome on Sundays, culminating in the communal pregame party at Champions Square. When the Saints make the playoffs, football and Mardi Gras combine to increase the spectacle. When New Orleans hosts the Super Bowl, in the words of one local, “the entire city shuts down for the party”.
There is no football stadium in the country that can match the resume of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. From the moment is was built in 1975, it was a classic venue. Super Bowls, Final Fours, College Football Championship games and iconic concerts have all been held here. Any trip to New Orleans to take in a football game instantly becomes more than just the game itself. The culture, food and atmosphere of one of America’s most popular destinations are all part of the package. The Superdome is a venue that should be on any football fan’s bucket list.
Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
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