New Orleans — There are 100 days until kickoff for Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, and New Orleans will be ready for the crowds and the big game, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said on Thursday.
By the time the festivities begin, construction on the Loyola Avenue streetcar line will be done, and a project to rehabilitate many crumbling streets and sidewalks in the French Quarter will have wrapped, he said. Additionally, a $356 million renovation project at Louis Armstrong International Airport will leave the facility with a new appearance and better operations, the mayor added.
“We are well on our way to being 100 percent ready for the Super Bowl when it comes,” Landrieu said.
The Super Bowl, which will be bookended by a split Carnival season, is expected to have a $400 million economic impact on the city. Add that to the international exposure the city will receive, and it’s important that the city looks its best, Landrieu said.
“The amount of international publicity we’ll get is nothing you can buy,” he said.
While Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant said that all major infrastructure projects will be completed by December, RTA General Manager Justin Augustine said work on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line will be put on hold beginning Jan. 19. It will remain on hold until Ash Wednesday, so it won’t interfere with Super Bowl and Carnival celebrations.
As visitors head into town, they should expect to see clean interstates, said Mike Stack, an administrator with the Louisiana DOTD.
Getting to the city from the airport, however, might a concern for some.
For weeks now, some of the city’s taxi cab drivers have been on strike on Thursdays as they protest recent changes the City Council and Landrieu administration passed. A number of drivers say they have not been given enough time to add credit card machines, security cameras, air conditioning and GPS navigation devices. Additionally, they are upset that the new city laws call for replacing vehicles after just a few years.
Any taxicab that does not pass its inspection cannot legally operate.
Thursday’s protest took the form of a noisy convoy down Poydras Street behind City Hall as the news conference happened. Dozens of cabs traveled up and down the Central Business District street as they honked their horns and snarled traffic, bringing to New Orleans a scene more familiar to New York City.
Officials dismissed drivers’ concerns that there will not be enough certified taxis to handle the crowds.
Michelle Thomas, deputy mayor for operations, said there are already more than 400 taxicabs that have come into compliance with the new laws. She said city leaders expect the majority of the remaining cabs to be in compliance before the end of January.
Landrieu reiterated that the changes have been discussed for two years and said those protesting have had enough time to meet the new requirements.
“This did not happen overnight,” he said, before promising that there will be “plenty enough” taxicabs for the Super Bowl.
As for the sprawling Super Bowl operation, it will require 8,000 volunteers to be successful, officials said. Carol Asher, volunteer chairwoman for the host committee, said there are already 4,000 people who have signed up, but that the rest of the volunteers need to be in place by Dec. 10.
Anyone interested in volunteering his or her time can apply at http://www.nolasuperbowl.com.
Also necessary for a banner event will be public safety. Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said his department has been meeting on a regular basis with multiple agencies, including Louisiana State Police and the FBI. Serpas promised that no neighborhoods will have their patrols moved to the Central Business District or French Quarter to increase coverage in those areas.
“This Police Department will be all hands on deck,” he said. “Our department’s going to be there for you.”
If all goes well, Landrieu said, the next step will be putting in a bid for the 2018 game — just in time for the city’s tricentennial.
“Let me be clear to the commissioner and to the NFL owners: We really like 2018,” Landrieu said. “But before we do that we need to get an ‘A’ on this one. And I’m confident we will.”