Just as Paris has the Eiffel tower and New York has the Empire State building, in the same way Buenos Aires has the Obelisco and Rio de Janeiro has Christ the Redeemer, there is a mass of cement with its own soul that stands out among the jazz and voodoo and the French Quarter with its Bourbon Street; a masterpeice of engineering that mixes with the old buildings at the center of the city, sad reminders of Hurricane Katrina and the contagious uproar of Mardi Gras.
Its easy to distinguish among the buildings which maintain the undeniable hint of the historic French and Spanish zones, its impossible to miss, just alongside the main highway into the city, close the old wearhouse and tourism areas.
There it stands unscathed, the New Orleans Superdome. A symbol of the strength of the most festive city in the United States.
The Superdome is a monster with a diameter of 679 feet and 253 feet tall, it is built on the old cemetery of Girod street, with a cost of $134 million. It first opened its doors on August 3, 1975.
David Dixon, one of the inspirational sons of the city, convinced the then governor of Louisiana, John McKeithen, to build the dome; Dixon, aside from being the father of the Superdome, was also the founder of the Saints, the NFL franchise in New Orleans.
Despite being a building ahead of its time, receiving concerts from huge artist and hosting the sad defeats of the Saints for decades, the Superdome would not reach its mythical connotations until August 2005.
Hurricane Katrina, the most destructive in United States history, generated material losses of 108 billion dollars. It took the lives of 1,833 people and in one night decimated the dreams of a city which is located under sea level at the mercy of the furious waters of the Gulf of Mexico, surrounded by the majestous Mississippi river and the great Pontchartrain Lake.
In just months, the Superdome became the symbol of tragedy and resurgence.
It was the venue that hosted the largest amount of victims after the great flood, its roof cracked and rays of light penetrating the interior, threatening its stability and the thousands of humans that were living the biggest nightmare of their lifes. The images quickly covered the entire world and the dome went from being the home of the Saints to a solid rock that withstood the storm and permitted citizens to get up and continue walking.
It seems almost a lie that only seven years ago, this city in which I walk today and which vibrates full-fledged from every corner; from the Warehouse District, the Riverwalk, Downtown was submerged in water.
A lot of things were said in the months in which the Superdome hosted the city's unfortunate citizens; there were accusations of looting, rape and even the death of a minor; regardles, today none of those accusations have been proven and they went on to become part of the urban legends of a city very similar to the ones described by Garcia Marquez in his magical realism.
The citizens of New Orleans launched a crusade to save their NFL franchise and Superdome, both which were on the verge of disappearing after the tragedy.
Many believed the Saints would be better off in a new city and some engineers reccomended demolishing the stadium; regardless, Tom Benson, one of the beloved sons of New Orleans, led the crusade to save the team and its home which had become a symbol of reconstruction.
Benson had already saved the Saints once, when he bought them in 1985 and appealed to all his power and friends to make sure the team stayed not only in New Orleans, but in the state.
It was a master plan that came to fruition on September 25, 2006, just a year after the tragedy. That monday night, the Saints returned to their remodeled home, after $193 million had been used to bring it back to life, and defeated their biggest divisional rivals, the Atlanta Falcons.
In the building that night were U2, Spike Lee, former president George Bush and 74,468 souls which represented the 1,800 dead and their families, and all those men and women that swam in the mortal waters of Katrina.
That game on that artificial turf sealed the reconstruction of New Orleans, it was the firm return of the city to normality, once again on the right path to returning to a normal life.
There was still a lot ot be done, clearly, one engineering feat and a football game would not resolve all the pain, poverty, social decomposition and absence of opportunity that Katrina left in its wake.
But having seen just a year earlier thousands of people resembling a refugee camp in Africa rather than a traditional American city and being able to see the smile return, was a strong strike towards a definitive recontruction.
After that game, it was engraved in the collective memory of the United States, and the world, that the Superdome was strong, erect and brave, supporting pain without fallling, and could represent the joy after the tragedy.
Today New Orleans, alongside Miami, is the City that has hosted the Super Bowl the most times, seven in total, and once more the Superdome is the epicenter of a flourishing city that refuses to give its soul to the water.
- The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, located in New Orleans, Louisiana, has been part of NFL history, as this stadium has hosted more Super Bowls, seven total, than any other location. Photo: Getty Images
- Before this year, the last Super Bowl to be played in the city was XXXVI, on February 2002. On that occasion, the New England Patriots defeated the St.Louis Rams 20-17. Photo: Getty Images
- It was also oneof the biggest symbols of Hurricane Katrina's passing through the city, not only because it was seriously damaged by the storm, but because it was the home for thousands of people left homeless by the storm. Photo: AP
- It all began on August 29, 2005, when Katrina hit down in Louisiana, provoking 35 breaches in the levees surrounding the city, flooding 80% of New Orleans. Photo: AP
- The first mandatory evacuation was declared by New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin, on August 28 at 10 a.m., when the storm was classified as a Category 5 storm. Photo: AP
- Specifically, the Super dome hosted approximately 26,000 people, who came for food and water in the days after the hurricane hit land. Photo: Getty Images
- It was for that reason that it became one of the symbols of the tragedy, as well as the strength of New Orleans, despite serious damage suffered, it became the main refuge for the inhabitants of the city that had not moved to other areas of the country. Photo: Getty Images
- On the other hand, the building had serious damage after the storm and was closed for various months afterwards. Photo: Getty Images
During the storm, a large part of the exterior covering was torn off by the strong winds. There was also a danger of losing two sections of the roof and the top dome was practically ripped off. Photo: Getty Images
- The images of the damages, in which the concrete base was exposed, quickly became an iconic image of the hurricane. Days later, the dome was closed until September 25, 2006. Photo: AP
- After the tragedy, despite not playing in the Saints' stadium, there was an tribute to the victims before the game between the Oakland Raiders and the Saints in the Coliseum in Oakland, California on September 1, 2005. The Saints would play their home games in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and in San Antonio, Texas. Photo: Getty Images
- To help the distribution of food and water to the refugees in the Superdome, on September 2 a military convoy full of amphibian vehicles to meet the needs of the thousands of victims. Photo: Getty Images
- The survivors that were refuges in the Stadium were also witnesses to the havoc, anxiety and pain of the tragedy, that only destroyed the city but left hundreds dead. Photo: Getty Images
- The United States Coast Guard met a fundamental mission, of supporting the rescue missions for survivors and victims of the tragedy. Photo: Getty Images
- Thousands of soldiers also arrived in New Orleans to help with security and the delivery of previsions for the Katrina survivors. Photo: Getty Images
- The situation of the survivors was deplorable, as after the gatedy they were left to wait to be evacuated and surviving on that which the authorities provided. Photo: Getty Images
- Regardless, many could not find refuge in the Superdome and lived an anxious and desperate situation. Photo: Getty Images
- Five days after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans residents were finally evacuated from the Superdome by authorities. Photo: Getty Images
- Some of the younger survivors had reason to smile again, as they were invited to a dinner and the Saints game against the New York Giants on September 19, 2005 in New Jersey. Photo: Getty Images
- The Saints were playing their first match "at home" for the season, with the revenue of the game going to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Photo: Getty Images
- The team became a symbol of hope for the city, as its fans never stopped supporting them no matter where they are playing. Photo: Getty Images
- Also, the game was a perfect excuse for the citizens of New Orleans to relieve some of the stress from the tragedy. Photo: Getty Images
- Unfortunately, it seems the Saints' spirit was diminished as they lost 27-10 to the Giants. Photo: Getty Images
- The reparations and remodeling of the Superdome after Katrina began in 2006 with a final cost of $185 million. Photo: Getty Images
- In total, the Superdome was closed for 13 months from September 6, 2005 until September 25 2006, for the start of that NFL season. Photo: Getty Images
- For the remodeling, the Saints could count on the support of FEMA, the state government and the NFL. Photo: Getty Images
- As part of the renovation which began after Katrina, the dome was raised again and new luxury seats were constructed, a new press room and new locker rooms. Photo: Getty Images
- But the tragedy not only affected the Saints, but many high school teams in the New Orleans area. Photo: Getty Images
One example was the football team of South Plaquemines High School, nicnkanmed The Hurricanes, formed after Katrina after the unification of three schools that had been affected by the storm. Photo: Getty Images
- During this time, the Hurricanes lived in trailer homes provided by FEMA. The team also did not have a locker room and traveled 30 miles by bus to go train. Photo: Getty Images
- But after the closing and remodeling, a fortified Superome reopened its doors on September 25, 2006. Photo: Getty Images
- One of the biggest points of pride for the Saints, its fans and all of the New Orleans inhabitants was seeing the remodeled roof. Photo: Getty Images
- The event generated great expectation from the inhabitants of New Orleans who were football fans, who went to the stadium in droves. Photo: Getty Images
- The event to reopen was a party with Football and music before 70,000 fans as the Goo Goo Dolls inaugurated the stadium with an outdoor concert. Photo: Getty Images
- There was also a concert before the game between the Saints and Falcons with Green Day as one of the acts. Photo: Getty Images
- Irish band, U2, stole the show, and alongside Green Day, sang a version of "The Saints Are Coming", originally by the Scottish band Skids. Photo: Getty Images
- Another of the more outstanding aspects of the events was the outpouring of support of the fans, which showed their joy and pride to see the Saints return to the Superdome. Photo: Getty Images
- The game to reopen the stadium also had various celebrities in attendance, including film director Spike Lee. Photo: Getty Images
- But the real stars were the players of the Saints, who got a historic 23-3 win over the Falcons to return to the playoffs that season. Photo: Getty Images
- The result would fill team owner, Tom Benson, a native of New Orleans, with pride. Photo: Getty Images
- That would be the beginning of a successful resurgence for the team, who in 2009 had a record of 13-3, including a 13-week undefeated streak to be the best team in the NFC and win the Super Bowl. Photo: Getty Images
- The reopening of the Superdome was a party which celebrated not only the return of the Saints, but with the hope that was beginning to fill New Orleans. Photo: Getty Images
- Two years after Katrina, the city still showed the aftermath of the storm with problems involving water, light and gas, but the never lost hope. Photo: Getty Images
- The tragedy encouraged people to go to New Orleans and help in the reconstruction of the city, including AFL athlete, Ernest Allen. Photo: Getty Images
- The NBA also showed its solidarity after the tragedy as the NBA Cares program organized a day of rebuilding the city on February 15, 2008 during the All-star Weekend. Major athletes like LeBron James were involved. Photo: Getty Images
- Jason Kidd and Steve Nash were other NBA stars which participated in the reconstruction of the city. Photo: Getty Images
- The renovated Superdome has become a secret weapon for the team as its one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. Photo: Getty Images
- The new structure became a nightmare for visiting teams for one reason: the noise. Photo: Getty Images
- The environment in the Superdome has changed completely since Katrina. Currently its one of the biggest pride in New Orleans, because the public generated a united front. Photo: Getty Images
- Also, according to many, it has become one of the noisiest stadiums in the NFL, a weapon for the Saints as they keep the rival from being able to signal. Photo: Getty Images
- Since Katrina, the Superdome has become a common season for various disciplines which shows the recovery of the city. Photo: Getty Images
- An example was the 2012 BCS National Championship between LSU and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Photo: Getty Images
- The match finished with an impressive 21-0 shutout by Alabama over LSU. Photo: Getty Images
- A similar event in 2012 was the final of the Final Four between the Kentucky Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks. Photo: Getty Images
- The match ended in a 67-59 victory for Kentucky over Kansas. Photo: Getty Images
- The tragedy continues to loom while New Orleans and the Super Dome continue to recover, becoming hosts to major events like the XLVII Super Bowl. Photo: Getty Images
- The enthusiasm by the fans assisting the Superdome is greater every year, with Sean Payton becoming a symbol of the resurgence of the city. Photo: Getty Images
- The New Orleans Saints cheerleaders not only stand out as the most beautiful in the NFL but also as vital support system for the team. Photo: Getty Images
- The Superdome, which became the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 2011, when the popular car dealership bought the naming rights. Photo: Getty Images
- This structure stands out for the modernity and beauty of the city of New Orleans, which has French and Spanish influences throughout. Photo: Getty Images
- The Superdome is also part of the Katrina tour, which takes visitors to the areas most affected by the storm including the Pontchartrain Lake and the Mississippi river. Photo: Getty Images
- On Sunday, it will become the Stadium with the most Super Bowls, with seven, as it prepares to host its first NFL Championship since Katrina hit in 2005. Photo: Getty Images