Designed in 1967 and constructed between 1971 and 1975, this multipurpose sports and convention arena was built on the former Illinois Central Railroad yards. The building itself covers 13 acres on a 52-acre site and can accommodate approximately 95,000 people (72,600 for a football game) and provide parking for 5,100 cars. The structural steel frame is sheathed with precast concrete panels, and the dome has a six-ring, patented Lamella roof framing system. The building’s 680-foot diameter and interior height of 273 feet has no supporting posts. A system of movable stands makes it possible to change the seating arrangement and capacity as needed for different events. The decision to locate the Superdome in the heart of New Orleans rather than in the suburbs, although controversial at the time, gave the city a new economic base. Viewed from the river end of Poydras Street, which was widened in the 1960s, the structure’s concave wall and dome offer a seductive and enticing silhouette beyond Poydras’s sharp-edged high-rise buildings.
The shocking spectacle of desperate people trapped in the Superdome for days in 2005 during and after Hurricane Katrina cast the building in a highly negative light. Nevertheless, wind and rain damage to the roof was repaired in the weeks that followed, and the building hosted the first game of the 2006 football season. When the NFL Saints won that game, it signified that New Orleans was on the road to recovery, and the building immediately again became a positive symbol for the city.
Next to the Superdome, a multipurpose sports, concert, and convention arena faced with shimmering green tile designed by Arthur Q. Davis and Partners opened in 1999. Its octagonal form is somewhat awkward compared to the elegance of Nathaniel Curtis’s elegant Superdome next door. Another arena from the Curtis and Davis firm is the approximately 9,000-seat Lakefront Arena of 1983 at the University of New Orleans. The three arenas reveal changing ideas about the function and aesthetics of sports and events venues.