in November 2006
Restoring the Superdome
By R. David Read
The Saints come marching back.
|Workers rush to complete work on the field for the opening game.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans a devastating blow in August 2005, one of the city’s icons became a particularly well publicized subject of media coverage. The Louisiana Superdome, built and opened in 1975, was depicted, time and time again, as a graphic example as to the extent the storm had crippled New Orleans. The ripped-off roof of the saucer-shaped structure, and graphic pictorials of the hordes of clustered refugees within the building seeking shelter from the storm waters exemplified, in the public’s mind, the dire conditions that prevailed.
With the building’s roof ripped asunder, gaping holes allowed prodigious amounts of rainwater to gush into the structure’s interior spaces. Ill equipped to host the multitudes who sought shelter from the storm and with scant semblance of order on the part of civil authorities, the scene quickly degenerated into utter anarchy.
The adjacent Arena fared much better. There, the authorities had had sufficient foresight to secure the Arena from trespassers, vandals and looters, and the building itself sustained minimal damage from the storm.
In the days that followed the passing of the storm, civil unrest eventually was quelled and the refugees from Mother Nature’s wrath slowly were evacuated to more suitable quarters. The floodwaters receded and the Superdome then could be secured. Left behind was untold damage wrought by drenching rains, floodwaters that had seeped into all low-lying crevices (including many of the building’s mechanical spaces) and wanton vandalism inflicted by the unruly crowds.
Given the circumstances, working on the Superdome was a lower priority than many of the more pressing needs required to return the city to some semblance of normality. Sanitation crews strove to make a dent into the heaps of garbage that littered the premises. But without power and owing to damage to the mechanical systems, HVAC systems were not operational. In the tropical heat and humidity of New Orleans, mold and mildew advances rapidly, and only the presence of a concrete floor kept the kudzu vines from taking over. That was the state of affairs for several months. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Saints NFL football team that normally calls the Superdome home was trying to maintain its 2005 schedule in places such as San Antonio.
Assessing the Situation
Nevertheless, local authorities and politicians in Baton Rouge (the Superdome is owned and funded by Louisiana and not Orleans Parish) realized that a restoration of the Superdome was essential toward regaining confidence, boosting morale and gaining support of the local populace. By early 2006, some six months after the disaster, a tentative plan was adopted. The State of Louisiana, Orleans Parish, the federal government (FEMA) and the various insurers reached the conclusion that, if at all possible, the structure should be restored in lieu of being replaced. It was determined that replacing the structure would be: a) political suicide, b) too lengthy a process and c) too costly, considering funds available. With these thoughts in mind, a preliminary financial plan was adopted.
The architectural firm of Ellerbe Becket of Kansas City MO was appointed to draft and oversee restoration designs. It, in turn, commissioned Trahan Architects of Baton Rouge as the architects of record. They also engaged the well-known consulting firm of Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon, and Williams (WJHW) of Dallas to address the AV aspects. Obviously, the first step had to be a thorough analysis of the extent of the damage to assess which materials and devices would require replacement or renovation. WJHW’s Jim Miles was team project leader for the evaluation process.
Tim Landry, owner of Tim Landry Sound Construction in New Orleans, has spent the last 14 years working with, and for, the NFL Saints football team and the Superdome Management Group (SMG). Consequently, he knows firsthand the building’s communications infrastructure. Landry was one of the first on the scene after the structure had been secured; his reaction was one of utter horror. “The rain damage from the failed roof was horrendous,” he said, “but the wanton vandalism was totally incomprehensible.”
Big, Unruly Mob
Besides stripping the skybox suites of their audio and video components and anything else worth stealing, the mob had smashed in the plate glass windows of the equipment and production rooms, and what they couldn’t steal they destroyed by spraying the equipment with chemical fire extinguishers.
Landry added, “Most creatures, with perhaps the exception of dung beetles, don’t defecate in their own nest; but the creatures who held sway in here turned the place into a stagnant sewer.” Donning full biochemical protective clothes and using respirators, the investigating team made an initial survey. “The stench was unimaginable,” he said.
Months later, Miles and his crew from WJHW encountered the same environmental conditions, made worse by the rust, mildew and mold that had set in while the authorities debated the fate of the building. It didn’t take too much foresight for the WJHW people to realize that practically every piece of the remaining equipment would require extensive refurbishment or total replacement.
The Daktronics-provided video display wall that had seen use only once—on the Friday evening before Katrina hit—was a total loss. The scoreboard, drenched with rainwater, was likewise in need of a complete renovation. The building’s cable infrastructure was deemed a total loss.
Forming the Restoration Team
|The newly refurbished visual display board "marquees" the
opening of the Louisiana Superdome.
Obviously, the first order of business was to repair the failed roof and stem any further damage from rain. Broadmoor, the construction management firm, engaged a local roofing firm to tackle the re-roofing effort. Despite the fact that the chosen firm’s price was somewhat higher than other bidders, competency was judged to be more important than dollars. With a stiff penalty for failure to meet the deadline, a handsome incentive for early completion and aided by an unusually dry Spring, the roof went on in record time. With the building “dried-in,” work could begin.
WJHW issued a set of “guideline specifications” for the project and set forth a list of AV integrators considered competent to perform the work. There were two stipulations that would impact the project: 1) Due to funding restrictions, all work would have to conform with the edict that replacement components would have to be of like-kind, i.e., no funds had been authorized for any work that might be considered “enhancements”; 2) The work would have to be completed by September 9, 2006; it was already April.
Although no one is willing to talk about solid numbers, the overall project cost is rumored to be approximately $180 million. The penalty cost for failure to complete in time for the first Saints game in the restored facility on September 25 (and any subsequent missed games thereafter) would be $1 million per missed game.
The consultant’s list of prospective bidders included New Orleans-based Tim Landry Sound Construction, Inc., and PSX Worldwide Audiovisual Technologies, Inc. Both firms were dubious about their individual abilities to meet the stated criteria, and mustered sufficient manpower to complete the project in the required timeframe.
In a wise move, and one that has created an amicable relationship, Landry and Jeff Borne, president of PSX, had breakfast one morning and decided to work together to pursue the project. Other out-of-town AV integrators “sniffed about” the project, but ultimately declined to participate in the bidding process. This left the Landry/PSX consortium as the sole bidder to electrical contractor HTE. Their joint-venture quote was accepted with the stipulation that all invoicing would have to be revealed, costs/expenses/overhead would have to be documented and an agreed-upon percentage of profit would be adhered to for their scope of work.
Still haunted by the specter of a short-term, looming deadline, Landry/PSX subcontracted with Inter-State Electronics of New Orleans to assume the burden of testing, refurbishing and/or replacing, and installing the video portions of the work. HTE’s forces, under the technical direction of Landry/PSX, would install all cabling required, including copper, fiber, Cat5 and coax; final test and termination would be performed by the systems integration group.
SMG’s production staff, under the direction of Toby Valadie, director of Technical Production, would assume responsibility for the restoration of the production video. Scoreboard/visual display provider Daktronics, Inc., was engaged under a separate contract for the restoration/replacement of the scoreboard and video display aspects (see “Scope of Work: Louisiana Superdome AV Restoration Team”).
All of the loudspeaker clusters for the main (down-firing center), circulatory (perimeter) and bass complement had to be lowered to the floor, inspected and refurbished as much as possible. All loudspeakers in public spaces that had not been removed or destroyed had to be removed from their mountings in water-soaked sheetrock and examined and repaired or replaced. All cable and the associated termination connections for the audio, video and communication systems had to be opened, examined, tested and replaced as required. Severely damaged audio/video and system control components had to be removed from the equipment rooms to be properly disposed of and replaced as required.
Like and Kind
The edict that components had to be “replaced in like and kind” did not relieve the integrators from the necessity that all rigging, mounts and installed systems be code-compliant under current standards. Many of the building’s systems dated back to their original installation in 1975; hence, items such as chain hoists, rigging hardware, etc., had to be brought up to current safety code regulations.
The crane, scaffolding people and the integrators’ work forces had to plan and execute their work to conform to the roofer’s schedule and keep in step with a host of other tradesmen whose activities were equally as time-dependent in meeting the September 9 deadline.
Work in Progress
|Workers connect new speaker cluster components in preparation for the "opening game."
On the occasion of a visit to the site in early August, the clock was ticking. Numerous signs posted about the premises were a reminder that “We have 37 days left.” That is, 37 days until the drop-dead completion date.
Many of the components, such as the 30-plus-year-old Altec Lansing high frequency compression drivers, had totally rusted shut and there was no available resource to perform refurbishment or replacement of such vintage equipment. The existing Altec Lansing multi-cellular horns and the associated bass cabinets used in the center, down-firing cluster were deemed suitable for reuse. (It certainly had been some time since this writer had witnessed 1003B horns, albeit fitted with new Radian compression drivers and custom fabricated throat adaptors, mounted atop 211 bass cabinets being readied to be hoisted into their center cluster positions.)
The main bowl sound system consists of four suspended loudspeaker clusters in the North, South, East and West quadrants of the facility. These clusters are suspended by three CM chain-hoist systems, each of which is about 170 feet above the event floor. These clusters, comprised mostly of Bose components, had to be reconstructed almost from scratch. Components involved 40 long-throw model LT3202 loudspeakers, 32 LT4402 long-throw horns along with 16 MB24 subwoofers configured in an end-fired array.
Locations “shadowed” from the main clusters are served by a series of loudspeakers arrayed along the “raker” beams and above the suite areas. These distributed JBL Control series devices are delayed to work in unison with the main Bose clusters.
At the time of our site visit, the big push was on for expedited delivery of the chain hoists. The scaffolding people were busily coordinating the placement of their devices to avoid, as much as possible, interfering with other trades. And the all too common problem of the sheet-rockers getting ahead of the backbox installers was a familiar aspect of a project of this magnitude.
Another debate that was raging when we visited was whether it was essential to replace all the triaxial cable in the building. Previous recommendations had stipulated that this be the case; however, the cost involved was gagging some of the money people. The dispute subsequently was resolved and all of the triax eventually was replaced.
To further compound the scheduling process, NFL rules stipulate that the “home” team provide the intercommunications, video instant replay and coach’s video for games. Inasmuch as the 2006/07 Saints schedule calls for them to play their first “home” games in stadiums in Jackson MS, Shreveport LA and Kansas City MO, the aforementioned communication systems would have to be transported to these “out-of-town” locations for use.
Consequently, that equipment would not be available for final install at the Superdome until after the September 9 game away (a deviation from the September 9 drop-dead date).
Work Completed in the Timeframe
After some very long days, and work that extended into the wee morning hours, the work was completed within the timeframe stipulated, and the September 9 deadline was met.
Landry was particularly complimentary about the cooperation and the fine efforts extended by PSX’s project manager Mike Newman in making sure the project was accomplished on time and with the least amount of confusion and frustration.
The Saints actually came marching back into the “Dome” with a season 3-0 record to face the Atlanta Falcons before a sold-out crowd and nationwide audience on Monday, September 25.
Who's Footing the Bill?
Back in 1965, Louisiana Governor John McKeithen was sold on the idea of having the State of Louisiana fund a football stadium in New Orleans; the cost of such an edifice was estimated to be about $183 million.
Dave Dixon, 83, who spearheaded the 1965 opening drive that culminated in the opening of the Louisiana Superdome in August 1975 with an exhibition game by the Saints, remarked on the restoration of the Dome, “This building [the Louisiana Superdome] is as significant to New Orleans as the World Trade Center was to New York….This was a great human accomplishment.” Completed in a record-breaking nine months, the Superdome restoration was a tribute to the willingness and the resiliency of Louisianans to bring their state back from desperation and the brink of economic disaster.
The final bill for the restoration process came to somewhere around $184 million. Louisiana’s contribution to the fund amounted to $54 million; the federal government in the form of FEMA funded 60%; and the NFL, which will be the primary beneficiary, coughed up a paltry 4% of the total cost (which kinda makes you wonder whose tail is wagging the dog?).
Louisiana Superdome AV Restoration Team
|Scope of Work
|Overall construction restoration responsibility
||Ellerbe Becket Architects
|Prepare drawings; oversee restoration processes
||Trahan Architects (architects of record)
|Determine extent of damage; prepare AV restoration specifications
||Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams consultants
||Superdome Management Group (SMG)
|Overall project management
|Inspect and test all cabling and associated connections
||Tim Landry Sound Construction/PSX Audiovisual Technologies
|Remove damaged, and install new, cabling infrastructure
|Remove and refurbish visual display and scoreboard components
|Lower speaker clusters; inspect components; replace damaged
components with as-like new components; oversee new rigging for
||Tim Landry Sound Construction
|Remove and inspect all overhead speakers in public spaces; replace
with like-kind as required; remount and reconnect
||PSX Audiovisual Technologies
|Test all video distribution circuits; replace damaged items with
|Inspect, refurbish and re-install all video production equipment
||SMG Technical Services Dept.
|Inspect, test and remove damaged front-end rack equipment; replace
with like-kind components as required
||PSX Audiovisual Technologies
|Inspect, refurbish or replace damaged production intercom systems
||Tim Landry Sound Construction
|Inspect, refurbish or replace damaged video replay equipment
||Tim Landry Sound Construction
PSX Worldwide Audiovisual Technologies
PSX Worldwide Audiovisual Technologies is a full-service systems integration, engineering and development firm whose principals and employees have extensive experience in the design, assembly, testing, installation, maintenance and management of integrated audiovisual systems globally. This includes sound, theatrical lighting, video, show control and special effects systems.
PSX pursues markets mainly in the themed-entertainment industry, including casinos, museums, dark rides and amusement parks, as well as large public spaces such as sports arenas, convention spaces and live music venues.
The company’s mission statement reads: “Our engineers have built systems around the globe in such faraway places as the Pacific Rim, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Europe, Central & South America. We operate all over the world in diverse environments as varied as can be imagined. Our Systems Engineering Team brings technical interpretation to every situation, working with creative clients to find the most effective means possible to engage and inform audiences.”
For more information, go to www.psx-inc.com.
Tim Landry Sound Construction, Inc.
Founded in 1988, Tim Landry Sound Construction, Inc., has specialized in design/build, large-format, permanently installed sound systems. Initially, the firm’s fortè was in the design and installation of AV systems for upscale hotels and resorts, which still constitutes a core activity. Over the past eight years, the business has expanded from strictly the hospitality industry to include a large share of public sector work, i.e., federal and state government public address work in the Gulf Coast region.
Landry Sound Construction also has become a major player in stadium and arena sound and communication systems installation. And, as earlier noted, it has been an active participant in the Saints and Superdome activities. Landry proudly noted, “We have worked on almost every large-scale arena and stadium within 100 miles of New Orleans.” The latest addition in this field, besides the current Superdome project, is the LSU Tiger stadium in Baton Rouge.
Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams
The Dallas-based acoustical consulting firm of Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams (WJHW), founded in 1990, has become one of the foremost consulting firms in the sports entertainment world. Its accomplishments include many of the major stadiums and arenas that have been built or refurbished in North America.
WJHW activities have not been limited solely to sports facilities. The company’s efforts also extend to major projects in the performing arts, public assembly spaces, and corporate and educational facilities.
For more information, go to www.wjhw.com.
Acoustical Solutions Fabspeaker 72 Black grille cloth for covering clusters
9 ADC PPA3-14MKII 300 level patch bays
81 Altec Lansing Flush 9 500 level box speakers
9 Altec Lansing Flush 9 600 level box speakers
Belden plenum cable
16 Bose MB24 bass driver and cabinet
32 Bose Vee-four single mid-high drivers; 32 driver cabinets
72 Bose Vee-four passive dividing (crossover) networks
80 Bose Vee-four mid-high drivers; 40 dual-driver cabinets LT3902
72 Bose t1.4 High-frequency LT3902
8 Electro-Voice DH1A seating bowl 70V system (high-frequency diver throat)
Gepco plenum cable
1 HP Procurv 2500 Series 24 port switch
22 JBL 29AV speakers
170 JBL Control 26CT 300 level soffit/over seating speakers (suites)
256 JBL Control 26CT 400 level soffit/over seating speakers (suites)
80 JBL Control 28T black 100 level 8" box speakers
95 JBL Control 28T black 200 level 8" box speakers
1 MediaMatrix by Peavey replacement DSP system
1 MediaMatrix by Peavey control computer
8 MediaMatrix by Peavey Nion CAB 16O CobraNet audio bridges
9 MediaMatrix by Peavey Nion MM OUT-4 output cards
4 MediaMatrix by Peavey Nion N3 central processors
4 MediaMatrix by Peavey Nion NIO-8ml input cards
9 MediaMatrix by Peavey Nion NIO-8o output cards
2 MediaMatrix by Peavey 17" LCD monitors
1 MediaMatrix by Peavey HP Procurve 2500 Series 16 port switches
17 Middle Atlantic WRK Series racks
9 QSC 1202V 300 level 70V 2-channel amps
21 QSC CM16a QSControl processors
84 QSC CX302 300 level 70V 2-channel amps
42 QSC CX302 300 level 70V 4-channel amps
84 QSC T142 dual 100V transformers
8 QSC 1202V 300 level 70V 2-channel amps
30 QSC CX1102 amps powering quadrant speaker clusters
12 QSC PL4.0 amps powering quadrant speaker clusters
56 Radian 2216 seating bowl 70V system (bass driver)
52 Radian 835PB seating bowl 70V system (high frequency)
3 TOA 900 MK2 replacement mixer amps
6 TOA B01 replacement modules
2 TOA H01 replacement modules
6 TOA MO1 replacement modules
7 LG 32" 32LGLC2D monitors (400 level exterior)
64 LG 42" 42LC2D monitors (skybox suites)
61 LG 32" 32LC2D (skybox suites)
12 LG 26" 26LC2D (skybox suites)
35 RCA 20" J-Series monitors (various models, refurbished; concession stand areas)
57 RCA 32" monitors (various models, refurbished; 400 level exterior)
30 Sony 20" monitors (concourse areas)
*Supplied by owner
List is edited from information supplied by PSX Audiovisual Technologies
Sound & Communications Contributing Editor R. David Read is a resident of southern Louisiana.