NFL's Saints, Rousted by Katrina, March Back Home

Even with the excitement and anticipation of the game, some critics still question whether that large amount of money spent repairing the Superdome was put to good use when so many neighborhoods are still digging out of Katrina's destruction.

Doug Thornton, who oversaw the renovations this past year at the Superdome, said those concerns are unfounded because the $116 million that FEMA kicked in to repair the facility could not have been used for neighborhood rebuilding, because it was set aside for public facilities like the Superdome.

"This money … in no way took away from money that was being allocated to the home program or the … individual neighborhoods," Thornton said.

Super Fans of the Superdome

At the Black and Gold Sports Shop in Metairie, La., owner Pam Randazza said she is seeing record sales of Saints jerseys and t-shirts. The top-seller? The rookie who has been called "Jesus in cleats" by one diehard Saints fan.

"Reggie Bush -- everybody wants Reggie Bush. He may be our savior. He's dynamite," Randazza said. "We haven't had a franchise player since Archie Manning, and back then that wasn't even considered franchise."

The lunchtime crowd on Thursday stood in a cash register line of about a dozen people. On Saturday, the store was so jam packed that it was nearly impossible to move as fans stocked up on gear, worried that maybe the store would sell out of black and gold apparel.

Jeff Soto is a born and raised New Orleanian who seemed to represent most people here when he said he would be shutting down early on Monday so he could start the celebrations hours before kickoff.

"It's bigger than Mardi Gras and its going to be an unbelievable party," Soto said. "God help the Falcons on Monday night. The Dome is going to be rocking. They call it Thunderdome for a reason. We're going to be thunderous in there."

The Saints will have a ridiculous home field advantage in Monday night's sold-out game. After 13 months of challenges from the hurricane and the wait to see if the team would even come back to the city or move to San Antonio, the team's fans finally will get to see their team back in their city against division rival Atlanta.

"You don't realize how die hard these fans are until you come down here and they you start winning, and it's crazy," Brees said.

Rookie Bush is used to winning from his days at the University of Southern California, and he seemed intrigued at the level of enthusiasm the Saints fans have in only Week 3 of a long NFL season.

"Everybody's excited," he said, "and everybody's so glad that we're 2-0. And they think we're like the greatest thing ever now. But it is great and we're happy that the fans are happy."

Mixed Emotions Monday

But happiness may not be the only emotion Monday, as fans also reflect on what happened in the Superdome last year.

This week we met Glenn Menard, the general manager of the Superdome, spent six days in the Dome before, during and after Katrina, living just like the other evacuees there with no water, no air conditioning and no comforts of home like spare clothing or toiletries.

He has seen Dome go through 13 months of renovations, with workers going around the clock to be ready for Monday night.

Menard dreamed of having the job he has now since the Dome opened in 1975, and when he talks about the Superdome, the affection he has for the building and its history is obvious on his face.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...