September 7, 2005

No plans yet to tear down New Orleans Superdome

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Reuters) - The Louisiana Superdome,
home of the New Orleans Saints football team, and recently the
scene or rape and murder when it housed hurricane survivors,
was severely damaged by Katrina but talk of tearing it down is
premature, its manager said on Wednesday.

Fixing the $500 million, state-owned stadium, which has
hosted a papal visit and a presidential nomination, could cost
$100 million, said Doug Thornton, regional vice president of
SMG, the company that runs the building.

"I think it's very premature at this point to have any
speculation about the future of the dome and whether it's going
to be torn down," he said.

Seventy percent of the Superdome's roof was damaged by the
hurricane, which led to severe water damage to electrical and
mechanical systems, elevators and escalators inside the
building. The field is under two inches of water in some places
and will have to be torn out, he said.

The 70,000-seat stadium was further damaged when up to
25,000 storm survivors gathered there for days. Some of them
described nightmarish conditions in the building, including
assaults, rapes, murders, little food and water and overflowing

Thornton acknowledged that some might advocate the
Superdome be torn down for that reason, but said state
officials would make that decision.

"I think it could be a symbol perhaps of the rebuilding of
New Orleans," Thornton said. "There are a lot of good memories
in the dome too."

The 30-year-old Superdome hosted the 1988 Republican
National Convention, at which George Bush, the current
president's father, was nominated. Pope John Paul hosted a
rally for 60,000 young people at the stadium in 1987.

The stadium has hosted Super Bowl football games and
basketball championships.

Thornton, who described his $100 million repair bill as a
"ballpark" figure, said he hoped to have the Superdome cleaned
up in two or three weeks and a complete damage assessment done
within 60 days.