Section of Girod Street to be re-named Dave Dixon Drive
Welcome to the newest street in town:"Dave Dixon Drive.'' It used to be a section of Girod Street that runs behind the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and in front of the New Orleans Arena.
As you watch the official christening of Dave Dixon Drive on Wednesday, I can hear Dave Dixon, somewhere up there, saying it should be ''John McKeithen Drive.''
Let the record show the father of the Superdome never failed to share credit with the governor who made it all possible, which I'll always look back on as the perfect marriage between two salesmen and, let's say, two politicians.
I can't tell you how many times I heard Dave say, ''thank God, the governor's a football fan.''
I can't tell you how many times I heard the governor say, ''Dave is the best politician I ever came across. I'm glad I don't have to run against him.''
My favorite Dixon story always will be the visit he made to see someone he had met only one time.
"I didn't know what to expect,'' said Dave, going back to the day in 1965 he showed up in the governor's office carrying drawings of his dream, how it would look inside, how a giant TV screen would hang from the ceiling.
"I was making my pitch to a man sitting, eyes closed, his feet propped up on a gigantic executive desk. I talked for at least a half-hour and the governor did not utter one word. The thing I remember most was deafening silence. I remember thinking, 'Oh, my God, I'm striking out.' ''
Then, suddenly, it all changed.
''The governor took his feet off the desk, stood up and looked me right in the eye,'' Dixon said. ''He was almost screaming. 'Dave, that's going to be the greatest building in the world. And, by God, I promise you, we're gonna build it right here in Louisiana.''
Wisely, Dave Dixon, the politician, was reluctant to call a news conference to announce the governor's gushing endorsement of a dome stadium. He'd wait for John McKeithen to choose the moment.
The moment would come following LSU's upset victory over Arkansas in the 1966 Cotton Bowl. You had McKeithen announcing to the world Louisiana would build a stadium that would be ''bigger and better than that Astrodome they have over there in Texas.''
The timing was ideal. It wasn't long before Louisiana voters were giving the green light to a constitutional amendment creating the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, a body with the bonding power to get money for operating expenses through a hotel-motel tax in New Orleans.
It wasn't long before Dave Dixon was touring the state, making 80 speeches in 40 days, telling audience after audience, ''it's time we had something to brag about.''
When their paths crossed at a Rotary Club meeting in Lafayette, the governor told the man who lit the fire, ''don't worry, Dave, the Dome is home.''
With McKeithen's stock sky high, the Dome Amendment passed by the biggest majority of any constitutional amendment in the history of the state.
Many forget Dixon had been at work as far back as 1963 when he sold the powers at Tulane University to allow Tulane Stadium to be used for NFL preseason games. It was an historic hurdle. While the preseason games did not fill an 80,000-seat stadium, crowds in excess of 50,000 created impressive gate receipts, some in excess of $300,000.
It was this kind of Dave Dixon-created success that made it easy for such political powers as Sen. Russell Long and Rep. Hale Boggs, when the time came for an NFL-AFL merger, to champion an antitrust bill NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle felt was vital to the future of professional football.
The bill passed.
And New Orleans was awarded an NFL franchise.
What did Dave Dixon think of Pete Rozelle?
''I think he was an excellent commissioner,'' Dixon said. ''He was also a con-man. But, let's be honest, I guess I'm a con-man too.''
Here's what we know about con-men.
In February, New Orleans will be hosting its 10th Super Bowl.
Tulane Stadium hosted the first three.
When the Superdome hosted its first, on Jan. 14, 1978, a 27-10 victory by the Dallas Cowboys over the Denver Broncos was watched by a worldwide television audience of more than 201 million, largest ever for a sporting event.
For the first time, more than 75,000 watched inside the stadium from luxury box suites that would become a prerequisite for future Super Bowls.
Dave Dixon was there.
What did Dave remember?
''I probably cried more than I ever have at a football game.''
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