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JOESAM2002 09-13-2005 08:15 PM

Superdome's future to be determined........
Updated: Sep. 13, 2005, 6:06 PM ET
Superdome's future to be determined after cleaningAssociated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- Experts will have to clean and decontaminate the Louisiana Superdome, which was wrecked while housing thousands of people seeking refuge from Hurricane Katrina, before the stadium's future can be determined, officials said Tuesday.

Superdome officials took their first post-Katrina look at the landmark stadium and the next-door New Orleans Arena on Friday.

Mounds of trash have been removed from the Superdome's concourses and the interior is still dark, waterlogged and vile smelling. The arena is in better shape, officials said.

"The first job is to get both buildings cleaned and decontaminated," said Glenn Menard, who manages both buildings. "Once we have that done we'll have the experts go in and tell us what can be done and what can't be done."

At first glance, the arena, where the NBA's New Orleans Hornets play their home games, does not appear to be badly damaged. Medical and special needs evacuees who were housed there following the hurricane stayed on concourses, leaving the rest of the building untouched. Flood waters that surrounded the Arena and Superdome after the storm, flooded the ground-floor locker rooms, Menard said.

The Superdome was a shelter of last resort during Katrina and thousands of evacuees were stranded there for several days. Toilets backed up and overflowed, the Dome Cafe and some offices were looted and trash was left behind as evacuees abandoned property. The condition of other areas, such as the luxury suites on the third and fourth levels, was not known since they were not inspected Friday, Menard said.

The roof sustained large gashes during the hurricane and the rubber coating that covered the huge dome was blown off. Water leaked throughout the building, flooding corridors outside the first-floor locker rooms and suites, pouring down elevator shafts, and sending water-logged acoustic tiles crashing onto soaked carpets.

Electricity went off during the hurricane and a generator powered only emergency lighting. There was no air conditioning and large areas of the building, including the bathrooms, were completely dark.

"There is substantial damage, but we have to wait to see what its long-term affect on the structure will be," Menard said.

Once the debris is removed, the building will have to be decontaminated before experts can determine what can be salvaged, Menard said.

"We have to make sure the building is safe before we can get anyone in there to access the damage," Menard said. "We hope to have a team in their in October so we can get a plan and decide what needs to be done."

Menard said it was too early to say how much the cleanup would cost -- or if the stadium could be salvaged. He said the stadium and arena are both insured.

"The engineers have to tell us how badly damaged the structure and systems were," Menard said. "Then we have to examine our options and the state's desires."

Any decision that did not involve restoring the Superdome would be an unpopular one, Menard said.

"Everyone has a Superdome story about being at an event in the building -- the Pope's visit, a concert, a sporting event, even their prom. I'm sure that love of the Dome will be part of any decision made about it," Menard said.

"It's been a part of the city's skyline for 30 years, I hope it will remain a part of the skyline."

Crusader 10-03-2005 09:27 AM

Officials optimistic about Dome, N.O. Arena

By The Associated Press



NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Officials are taking the first steps toward restoring the Louisiana Superdome and the New Orleans Arena, which sheltered thousands of evacuees when Hurricane Katrina hit the city.

Workers began using pumps and hot air to dry out the arena this week and were decontaminating it while a team of engineers, architects and others began evaluating the damage done to the Superdome and the steps needed to repair it.

"The more time goes by, the more certain we are that both buildings can be repaired," Superdome general manager Glenn Menard said Friday. "We just don't know how long it will take or how much it will cost."

The New Orleans Arena, home to the NBA Hornets, was turned into a makeshift medical facility in the days after the storm. The Superdome, home to the NFL's Saints, Tulane University football and the Sugar Bowl, had parts of its roof ripped away by high winds at the height of the storm, and the interior damaged by the thousands who crowded in there for a week before all could be evacuated.

Munters, a company specializing in the removal of water and dehumidifying buildings, began drying out the Arena this week. The locker rooms and storage areas on the ground floor of the Arena had standing water, Menard said. Apparently water came up through the drains and into the building, he said.

"We no doubt had damage to many of the things stored there, like the basketball floor," Menard said. "We have not been able to get it out and evaluate it. But it's wood, and it's been in standing water."

Teams were also decontaminating the Arena bathrooms and a biohazard team is picking up the medical waste, Menard said.

Ellerbe Becket, a design firm that has studied the Superdome in connection with upgrading it for the Saints, sent in an eight-person team of architects, engineers and construction professionals to evaluate the Dome.

"We had mapped out the Dome and had stored the information in our computer drafting systems here," said Stuart Smith, spokesman for Ellerbe Becket. "We have the floor plan already in tow. The team that studied the Dome will have a head start in this situation."

Experts will check all the operating systems including plumbing, electrical, audio, video and broadcast abilities. The structural components of the building will also be appraised.

"They want to know - did the storm weaken the building and if it did, can it be renovated and be as strong or stronger than ever," Smith said.

The Office of Facility Planning and Control estimates $200 million in damage to the Superdome.

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