The state of Louisiana approved a $400,000 diagnostic architectural survey of the Superdome last week, and if that sounds trivial, it’s not: Apparently it’s the first step toward yet another renovation of the New Orleans Saints‘ home stadium on the state’s dime. Or rather, five billion dimes:
The $422,000 study, which was approved last May, proposed several options to modernize the Superdome and increase revenue streams for its anchor tenant, the New Orleans Saints. Among them: removal of the interior pedestrian ramps; installation of glazed windows to some parts of the Dome’s existing sides; installation of field-level bunker suites; and improving parts of the terrace seating.
Depending on the scope, the price tag for the potential renovation ranges from $150 million to $500 million.
If you’ve lost track of how many renovations of the Superdome this makes, I put together a handy scorecard last year:
$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.
So if Louisiana approves the full $500 million upgrade, that’ll be $1.508 billion it’s given to the Saints owners (in either renovation costs or straight-up cash) over the past 18 years, or $1.642 billion if you count building the dome in the first place. (That’s all nominal dollars; if you want to figure out the total value in 2018 dollars, go for it, there are plenty of calculators for that sort of thing online.) All in order to “increase revenue streams” for the Saints, without which they would presumably move to some other city that’s willing to give them a billion and a half dollars? Leave it to Tom Benson (and now his heirs): In a city of grifters, he may have come up with the most lucrative grift of all time.