Steps taken to prevent another power failure at Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- The field goes dark during a power outage during Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, February 3, 2013 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. MAGS OUT / INTERNET OUT/ONLINE OUT/NO SALES/TV OUT/FOREIGN OUT/LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC. OUT/GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS REPORT OUT/225 OUT/10/12 OUT/IN REGISTER OUT/LBI CUSTOM PUBLICATIONS OUT/MANDATORY CREDIT THE ADVOCATE/ HEATHER MCCLELLAND. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- The field goes dark during a power outage during Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, February 3, 2013 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. MAGS OUT / INTERNET OUT/ONLINE OUT/NO SALES/TV OUT/FOREIGN OUT/LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC. OUT/GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS REPORT OUT/225 OUT/10/12 OUT/IN REGISTER OUT/LBI CUSTOM PUBLICATIONS OUT/MANDATORY CREDIT THE ADVOCATE/ HEATHER MCCLELLAND.

“It was embarrassing, but we’ve taken steps to make sure that it won’t happen again and the NFL is confident with them.” ROD WEST, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Entergy

The question, Rod West readily acknowledges, is a legitimate one.

What assurances can West, CAO and executive vice president of Entergy, give the 32 NFL owners he will address during Tuesday’s final bid for New Orleans to host Super Bowl LII in 2018 that there won’t be another power failure?

You know, like the one that put the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in semi-darkness for 34 minutes during Super Bowl XLVII just a little more than a year ago?

“The power outage, while unfortunate, was something we have taken steps to alleviate,” he said. “The issue was a device, not a breakdown of our system, but a device installed specifically to protect the Superdome from power surges.

“And that device, for reasons we could still debate with the manufacturers, triggered the blackout. It was embarrassing, but we’ve taken steps to make sure that it won’t happen again and the NFL is confident with them.”

Those steps, Superdome general manager Alan Freeman said, include new equipment which will automatically transfer the full power feed to just one of the two primary lines that come into the Dome should one of the lines go down. In 2013, that was done manually.

That, Freeman added, doesn’t mean there cannot be a power failure — and if there is one, even with the automatic equipment, the lights would go out and still take a few minutes to reboot.

But the likelihood is less.

Which, to Chicago-based sports consultant Mark Ganis, will be good enough for the NFL, if it mattered that much to the league to begin with.

“If you’re talking about whether or not they will vote for New Orleans because of the power failure, it’s a bogus issue,” he said. “Now it is something that the NFL will pay attention to from now on, and you saw that this year in New York.

“The thing that the owners are most going to remember New Orleans for when it comes to situations like this is how they handled things in 2002 right after 9/11, and we had an unprecedented security situation. Now that’s something that is high on the docket.”

Plus, Freeman added, the NFL is more concerned with how the Superdome, which got a major upgrade before the 2013 game, is prepared to be even better in 2018.

The main component of that will be new, larger high-def video screens.

A single one running the length of the Dome, much like the one at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, has been considered as well, but there are concerns about the Dome roof being able to support the weight.

Either way, the screen (or screens) will cost in excess of $10 million. The Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District will have to come up with the funding.

“Sooner or later, we’ll have one,” Freeman said. “But keeping up with everybody else with the new bells and whistles is quite expensive.

“Getting the Super Bowl would definitely speed up the process.”

Among other things, the league was streaming Wi-Fi in the building and the ability to add whatever other new technology may be developed over the next four years.

“We’re got a 40-year-old building that will be 43 in 2018,” Freeman said. “But we will always make sure that the quality of the Superdome is as good as there is in the NFL.”

And, West added, power-hungry events in the Superdome over the past year, such as the Essence Festival and WrestleMania, prove that the problem was something that was correctable.

“At the end of the day, we’re not concerned about whose fault or whose was behind any issue regarding power,” West said.

“As the incumbent utility company, we accepted the responsibility to keep the lights on and to fix any issue. That’s the position we took, that’s the position we take and we look forward to doing our job in 2018.”