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Superdome Managers Worried About Outage Before Game

Linda Hardesty

Public records released by the Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District (LSED), which oversees the Superdome, says tests on the dome’s electrical feeders last Fall indicated there was a chance of failure, according to ESPN.

An October 2012 memo said that Entergy, the electricity supplier for the arena, and the Superdome’s engineering staff had concerns about the grid from Entergy’s connection point to the Dome. To alleviate their worries, LSED spent more than $600,000 to upgrade the stadium’s electrical feeder cable system, according to ESPN.

“As discussed in previous board meetings, this enhancement is necessary to maintain both the Superdome and the New Orleans Arena as top tier facilities, and to ensure that we do not experience any electrical issues during the Super Bowl,” says a LSED document dated Dec. 19.

SMG, the management company for the Superdome, has tasked its Regional VP Doug Thornton to lead the investigation into the cause of the outage. Thornton told Venues Today that SMG simulated a power outage at the Superdome several weeks before the big game to document all the steps necessary to restart the power in the event of an outage. That simulation was instrumental in getting the power back as quickly as possible during the real outage, which interrupted the game for 34 minutes.

The Energy Information Administration said the high intensity discharge (HID) lights in the Superdome also contributed to the length of the delay because the bulbs have long warm-up and restrike times.

Some manufacturers of switching gear have been brought in to help find the cause of the blackout.

Feb. 8, 12:30 pm, Update:  Entergy New Orleans says it has traced the cause of Sunday’s outage to an electrical relay device, which ironically, was specifically installed to protect the Mercedes-Benz Superdome equipment in the event of a cable failure between the switchgear and the stadium.

While the relay functioned without issue during a number of high-profile events – including the New Orleans Bowl, the New Orleans Saints–Carolina Panthers game, and the Sugar Bowl – during the Super Bowl, the relay device triggered, signaling a switch to open when it should not have, causing the partial outage.

This device has since been removed from service and new replacement equipment is being evaluated.

“While some further analysis remains, we believe we have identified and remedied the cause of the power outage and regret the interruption that occurred during what was a showcase event for the city and state,” said Charles Rice, president and chief executive officer of Entergy New Orleans, in a statement.



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