In 2005, Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans and its iconic venue, the Louisiana Superdome. Even then, the building was able to house thousands of those who had lost their homes, but after they left, the Superdome was closed for several months while it was cleaned up. The Saints moved back in for the 2006 season and since then, have enjoyed much success, including the 2009 Super Bowl.
Naming rights to the Superdome were purchased by Mercedes-Benz in 2011, but it is still referred to as the Superdome by locals and visitors alike. There is free street parking a few blocks away if you get there early, but most fans choose to pay for parking in the attached garages. I took a bus and walked through some sketchy areas to get there, but this allowed me to take a few photos of the exterior.
Before entering, I took a tour around the outside; there is a statue commemorating the Steve Gleason blocked punt that happened in the Saints' first game back in New Orleans after Katrina.
The Saints also have a Hall of Fame that is open before the game; it essentially takes you through each season in the team's history and finishes with paintings for every enshrinee. No Lombardi trophy though, which was disappointing. There was this collectible plaque with tickets from every game that year.
The Superdome is the largest fixed dome stadium in the world, but still has a relatively small footprint for an NFL venue. This makes concourses fairly narrow, but I didn't have any problems getting around.
In terms of seating, the upper deck is right on top of the field, while many of the seats in the lower level are covered by the second deck, creating a dark and claustrophobic feel.
The best place to sit is hence the second deck end zone, where you are uncovered, yet very close to the action, as you might be able to notice in the shots below.
The only noticeable Mercedes Benz logo was hanging from the roof. Doesn't make me want to buy one, that's for sure.
Before the game, a Saints banner is unfurled as the Saints run on the field. Things start to get loud around that time. The acoustics were terrible where I was sitting and I couldn't clearly hear the announcer, but these poor acoustics don't affect the fans, who make the dome one of the loudest places in the league, cheering on every opposition play. Coupled with the temptations of Bourbon Street, it is no wonder that visiting teams have so much trouble winning in the Superdome.
Such was the case again yesterday as the Buffalo Bills came into town. The Saints were 5-1 but being ignored by the national media because they just go about their business with no controversy or quarterback named Manning, now that Archie has retired. That will change after Drew Brees (below, telling the Bills defense that the Saints are #1) threw 5 touchdown passes. That was the 8th time in his career he has thrown for that many TD passes in a game, a new NFL record.
Thad Lewis (below) started for Buffalo and fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, getting hurt in the process. Amazingly he came back for the second drive, but was largely ineffective, fumbling again and throwing an interception too. He is tough though, taking a ton of punishment from a physical Saints defense and playing the entire game, though he was walking like a very old man by the end of it.
My seat was high up in one end zone, where two of Brees' touchdowns ended up, including the 69-yarder to Kenny Stills. Below is Brees thowing, although not for a touchdown on this particular play.
The Bills got a Fred Jackson rushing TD (below) early in the 4th quarter to move within 28-17 and I was hoping for another comeback like the one against the Bengals a couple of weeks prior.
Sadly it was not to be as the Saints added a final score to complete the rout.
At the halfway point of my trip, I'm predicting the Saints and Bengals to meet in the Super Bowl as those are the two teams that have impressed me the most (I'm only including teams I've seen live, so save your complaints Seattle fans).
The second half of the trip begins in Miami on Thursday before I drive back north for games in Green Bay, Minnesota, and Chicago. It is the toughest part of the trip, so check back on Friday to see if I made it.