Umpteenth taxpayer-funded Superdome renovation could push public costs to $1.5 billion

The New Orleans Superdome has cost Louisiana taxpayers a lot of money over the years: $134 million to build it in the first place in 1975, then $54 million for emergency repairs after Hurricane Katrina, then $376 million in non-emergency repairs after that, including replacing the exterior and redoing the entire lower bowl of the stadium with new seating and club space. Along the way, the state paid Saints owner Tom Benson $186 million to keep the team in town through 2011, then another $392 million to keep the team in town through 2025. But 2025 is just eight years away now, so of course Benson is starting to plan ahead for his next payday:

State officials took the first step toward another potential makeover of New Orleans’ iconic downtown stadium last week when the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District approved funding for a master plan to renovate the Superdome…

“The whole idea of this was not to wait until the last minute,” Saints president Dennis Lauscha said. “If we’re going to do this, let’s start now. This project is about trying to get the stadium to the next generation of fans and make it fun for them, as well.”

What would the “next generation of fans” consider “fun”? Apparently such things as “a re-imagined front door,” moving two parking garages, new roof windows, an expanded visiting locker room, renovated press box, and “installation of virtual reality technology.” Price tag: between $150 million and $500 million, which is a broad range. Neither Saints execs nor the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District nor the New Orleans Times-Picayune mentioned who’d pay for it or how, but given past experience, “entirely out of Tom Benson’s pocket” seems unlikely.

If the renovation happens and hits the high end of the cost estimate, that’ll push the public cost of keeping Benson happy to almost $1.5 billion over the past 16 years. Current estimated cost to just buy the damn Saints from Benson and shut down his subsidy demands forever, while simultaneously getting access to $70 million-plus in revenues a year: $1.75 billion. Not to say that Louisiana is doing this wrong, but, yeah.

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10 comments on “Umpteenth taxpayer-funded Superdome renovation could push public costs to $1.5 billion

  1. “The whole idea of this is not to wait until the last minute. If we’re going to grift the taxpayers for another half a billion we better start now.”

  2. I wonder how the costs of constant remodels of the SuperDome compare with building new. In the time the Saints have been in the dome, the Falcons will have moved from Fulton County Stadium to two new domes.

  3. This is fake news. As a reminder, fake news is when actual facts are spun into a false narrative.

    Actual facts: The Superdome needs an expensive renovation and the Saints play there.

    False narrative: The Saints are the reason the dome needs a renovation.

    The Superdome renovation is needed because Atlanta and Dallas (and even Houston) present big competition for football events (as well as WrestleMania and international soccer) in the South. Therefore, the beneficiaries of these events (meaning, the locals who participate in the economy) will likely pay for the lion’s share of the renovations.

    1. While trying to obey the house rules, I will say that your definition of fake news seems very subjective. Also, there is a distinct difference between “The Superdome needs a expensive renovation” and the Saints “want a expensive renovation, paid for with taxpayer money”.

      1. I second the subjectiveness of the definition.

        My definition of fake news is one in which the the facts that the narrative is based on are, at worst, completely false or manufactured, and at best, incomplete.

        So, by my definition, the fake news here would be something like:

        “Saints Funding $1B in Dome Renovations for More Fan Fun and to Thank Taxpayers for Their Blind Support”

    2. “The Superdome renovation is needed because Atlanta and Dallas (and even Houston) present big competition for football events (as well as WrestleMania and international soccer) in the South.”

      You have some evidence for this, Ben? I.e., not that Atlanta and Dallas are competition for big events (duh) but that renovating the dome will significantly increase Louisiana’s revenues to the point where it will repay the costs?

      1. I have no idea whether a Superdome renovation would pay for its costs and I don’t care. It’s a specious question. We can both agree that one major role of government is to provide infrastructure. For tourist destinations, that often means having a modern football stadium.

        Obviously, you’re free to disagree that football stadiums are infrastructure for tourist towns, but The People of tourist towns (aside from San Diego) have shown that they agree with me.

        1. Please to be providing links to examples of where the actual populace of “tourist towns” has voted for such things. (Arlington is not a tourist town, and legislators are not a People.)

  4. To keep the super bowls coming they should renovate Bourbon Street. That’s why the NFL comes to New Orleans. The presence of a football stadium is just a minimum prerequisite.

  5. A fascinating debate, gentlemen. The Superdome might not get a tour visit from Wrestlemania you say? Tsk tsk.

    Now time for a reality check: there is no debate–creative rationales aside, we are the 900 pound gorilla in the room and when we want stadium projects, we get them. If we want one in New Orleans, we’ll get it one way or another.

    Wrestlemania, lol. You might as well say they need to use the Superdome for some hopeless sport like soccer! Oh wait, you already did that….NFL football, baby – that’s the name of the game, the only game that matters.

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