The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans has been slowly but surely getting the upgrade it deserves over the last decade-and-a-half since Hurricane Katrina. Considering the venue’s 44-year history of hosting renowned sports teams, its brief stint as a vital emergency shelter, and its recent designation on the National Register of Historic Places, the 76,000-seat arena has lived a storied life. Structurally, the piece of mega-infrastructure by Curtis & Davis is stronger than ever, but the interior could use a contemporary facelift.
This week, Trahan Architects revealed initial renderings of what will be a $450 million renovation of the beloved Superdome, set to be completed ahead of the Super Bowl LVIII in 2024. Nola.com reported that the New Orleans-based firm, which has been working on the space’s restoration and renovation since the 2005 hurricane, will take the historic building and bring it into the 21st century of athletic entertainment. The studio will reorganize and improve back-of-house elements like bringing a giant commercial kitchen into the facility while dually enhancing front-facing amenities for spectators.
The Superdome’s modernist exterior will remain the same. Trahan Architects has already replaced the outer shell of the 9.7-acre, single-span roof as well as the 400,000-square-foot exterior metal skin of the building to make it look like the original architects’ design. Using anodized aluminum panels, the studio upgraded the membrane so that it could be changed out piece-by-piece in the future in case of damage.
Phase one of the new project, set to cost $100 million, will largely include behind-the-scenes work while phase two will totally transform the look and feel of the Superdome’s interior.
Elaina Berkowitz, an architectural designer on the Trahan team, said that although the redesign has been challenging to maneuver, improving the game-day experience for fans, while also “preserving the beauty and meaning of this classic structure” is a big deal for the firm. “It’s a beautiful and iconic structure and is a wonderful representation of the strength of this fabulous community.”
One of the biggest changes of the upcoming renovation will center around the removal of the 80,000-square-foot ramp system (each is 50-feet-wide) that takes up the majority of space on the sidelines. Trahan Architects will build out a new series of vertical atriums with zigzagging escalators on two corners of the stadium before dismantling the old ramps, allowing fans easier circulation upon entering the Superdome and a closer view of the field than ever before.
In addition, the design team will integrate a diverse array of experiences for spectators to tap into. Field-level boxes on the end zones will be embedded under the general seats, according to Nola, and standing-room-only areas will allow fans to explore the stadium instead of being confined to their ticketed seats throughout an event.
The project announcement comes days after the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (a.k.a. the Superdome Commission) voted to approve the multi-million dollar makeover. Construction on phase one will begin in mid-to-late January and will be further conducted around the Saints’ season schedule, as well as other major New Orleans events.