August 16, 2010 - Champions Square new this season at Superdome
The 60,000-square-foot Champions Square will open to the public on August 21 for the first pre-season Saints home game against the Houston Texans. Although Phase I of the project is expected to be complete for the home opener on September 9, officials point out that work will continue through the beginning of the 2011 NFL season.
"We're effectively reactivating what was a blighted property and putting it back into commerce," says Ron Forman, Chairman of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, the government appointed board charged with overseeing operations of the Superdome and surrounding area. "Champions Square is a sign of continued progress in improving the area around the Louisiana Superdome and revitalizing the upper end of Poydras Street."
Champions Square will feature many special elements, including a 36-foot by 32-foot performance stage, an 18-foot x 32-foot LED video board, a state-of-the art sound system, special lighting, and numerous 10-foot by 10-foot performance modules, creating an urban tailgate environment for fans on game day.
In addition to the live entertainment, street vendors and merchandise kiosks, visitors to Champions Square can dine on food from an iconic group of restaurants that celebrate New Orleans's rich culinary heritage, including Acme Oyster House, Galatoire's, Drago's, the Praline Connection, Red Fish Grill, Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse and Bourbon House. Outback Steakhouse and WOW Café and Wingery will cater to fans seeking more mainstream fare.
"As New Orleans and the Louisiana Superdome host numerous national sporting events over the coming years, including the 2013 Super Bowl, this new infrastructure will accentuate the fan experience and give us the ability to market the city for other major events in the future," SMG Senior Vice President Doug Thornton says. "Champions Square also can be an economic engine outside of sports, serving as the site of corporate events, festivals, and concerts."
The theme of "champions" was derived, Thornton says, from the Superdome's long history of hosting champions and championships, and the Square will feature iconic images - some 30-feet tall - from the building's storied past. Images include Saints Hall of Fame Linebacker Rickey Jackson, Heavyweight Champ Muhammad Ali who defeated Leon Spinks in an epic 1978 match, Michael Jordan hitting the game winning shot for North Carolina in the 1982 NCAA Men's Basketball Finals, the 2009 Super Bowl Champion Saints, and others.
Thornton noted that during this first interim phase of construction, LaSalle Street will be secured as a pedestrian mall during game days and major events, and a large staircase will create the grand entrance into the Superdome that the facility has never had. It will also allow fans access to Champions Square from the building's plaza.
In Phase II, which will begin after the Saints's season, the Square and LaSalle Street will be paved as a pedestrian mall, and the staircase will be made a permanent one.
"We're tremendously excited about this space," Thornton says. "We want to use this project as proof of concept for future development and improvements to this area of town that had been dormant."
Construction on the project cost a total of $13.2 million. $10.5 million of the project budget is supplied by the Saints as part of the deal to the keep the team in New Orleans through 2025, with the balance of the funding being provided by the LSED and other sources
The property is owned by Zelia LLC., a firm owned by the Benson Family. It is leased to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED) and operated by SMG, the private management firm that also operates the Superdome and New Orleans Arena. For more information on the Louisiana Superdome, visit www.Superdome.com or call 504-587-3663.