Fondly recalling 40 years of Superdome memories
August 3, 1975, was grand opening day at the Louisiana Superdome.
My buddy Kevin Kytle and I sat in the south end zone and just looked, for hours.
Even as a college freshmen at Loyola University, I understood that our skyline had changed dramatically. But at that time, no one, perhaps outside of the late Dave Dixon, could understand how much the Dome would change New Orleans, Louisiana and sports in America.
Forty years later, it is still hard to believe the uproar that ensued when the cost of the Superdome jumped from the estimated $80 million to more than twice that.
That was money well spent.
Dixon, who dreamed of the Superdome, found a political ally in then-Gov. John McKeithen, who pushed hard to make the building a reality. Dixon believed the Superdome would bring New Orleans major league baseball.
That never happened, but so much else did.
Pope John Paul II preached there. Muhammad Ali won the heavyweight title, for a third time, on Poydras Street. New Orleans became the best city to a host a Super Bowl. Ditto for the BCS championship.
The Superdome changed college basketball forever. In 1982, North Carolina won the first Final Four in a domed stadium. Now, every dome, coast to coast, bids for Final Fours.
The Saints floundered there for years until 1987. After a loss to San Francisco, head coach Jim Mora uttered his “Coulda, woulda, shoulda“ speech. Mora said the Saints weren’t good enough. His players proved otherwise. The Saints caught fire, won 12 games and made the playoffs for the first time.
It is funny what you remember years later.
That 1987 season ended with a 44-10 playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings. But I was standing on the field for the final two minutes, when Saints fans gave their team a standing ovation. Twenty-eight years later, I can still hear my ears ringing as the cheers cascaded down.
LSU had not won a national football title since 1958. The Tigers won a pair on Poydras Street and played in a third championship game, all in the space of nine years.
Tulane had an undefeated season in the Superdome in 1998. And, in 1979 and 1981, the Wave beat LSU in back-to-back home games.
Now, the Superdome supposedly isn’t a good venue to watch Tulane football. It wasn’t that way in 1975. Back then, Tulane played a major college football schedule. The home opponents were Ole Miss, Syracuse, Vandy, Georgia Tech, Air Force, North Caro- lina and LSU.
On Oct. 25 of that year, 63,333 watched the Wave against Georgia Tech.
The Bayou Classic came to the Superdome in 1975. The Superdome Classic for prep football came to Poydras Street in 1981. Now, every football player or coach on a good team in Louisiana talks about "getting to the Dome." When enough public schools didn't get there, their principals voted to split the playoffs.
In August 2005, in the days after Katrina, the Superdome was the scene of immense sadness. Thirteen months later, for Falcons vs. Saints, the Superdome signaled a rebirth.
In the months after the storm, WGNO-TV operated out of portable trailers in a parking lot outside the Super- dome. Each day, we watched workers rebuild the roof. They didn’t know it, but they were doing much more.
They were telling us everything was going to be OK. If the Superdome was good, we would be, too.