Like much of New Orleans, the Louisiana Superdome is facing an uncertain future in the wake of hurricane Katrina. One of the largest stadiums in the National Football League remains surrounded by water. The most recognizable building in the city may not last much past its 30th anniversary.
On September 28th, 1975, the Louisiana Superdome opened. Engineers and architects boasted their design could withstand wind speeds in excess of 300 kilometers per hour. But with 233 kilometer per hour winds swirling over the dome, Hurricane Katrina shredded large sections of the roof. Among discussions about rebuilding New Orleans are growing calls to demolish the Superdome.
Warren Louis Reuther Jr. is a member of the commission that oversees the Superdome.
"There is no way to repair it now. We are going to have to take it down. The roof has been peeled back. It is still underwater as of right now," he says.
The massive enclosed stadium became a shelter for thousands of New Orleans residents who did not or could not flee before the hurricane. When the storm knocked out power and working bathrooms, conditions inside the Superdome quickly deteriorated.
Mr. Reuther says a new stadium will have to be built to higher standards.
"We now know that the facility was strong enough that it did not blow down. But we are going to have to make provisions," Mr. Reuther says. "Whatever we rebuild is going to have to be strong enough to be safe for our people to go to."
In addition to being the Saints home field, the Superdome was also the home of college football's annual Sugar Bowl and has been the venue for college basketball's Final Four and six National Football League Super Bowls. The stadium is 27 stories tall and from the outside, looks like a massive spaceship. Inside, almost 70-thousand multicolored seats in three tiers circle the entire field. Every seat next to another one is a different color, which made attendance for many events appear higher than it actually was.
During the past year, the Saints began exploring the options of possibly building a new retractable roof stadium by 2009. Hurricane Katrina may make that possibility a reality much sooner.