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First Steps Toward Restoration of Superdome Begin

Tue October 11, 2005 - National Edition
Mary Foster - ASSOCIATED PRESS



NEW ORLEANS (AP) Officials are taking the first steps toward restoring the Louisiana Superdome and the New Orleans Arena, which sheltered thousands of refugees when Hurricane Katrina smashed through the city.

Workers began using pumps and hot air to dry out the Arena this week and decontaminating it while a team of engineers, architects and others began evaluating the damage done to the Superdome and the steps needed to repair it.

“The more time goes by, the more certain we are that both buildings can be repaired,” Superdome General Manager Glenn Menard said. “We just don’t know how long it will take or how much it will cost.”

The Arena, home to the NBA Hornets, was turned into a makeshift medical facility in the days after the storm. The Superdome —home to the NFL’s Saints, Tulane University football and the Sugar Bowl — saw parts of its roof ripped away by high winds at the height of the storm, and the interior damaged by the thousands who crowded in there for a week before all could be evacuated.

The Hornets will play 35 home games in Oklahoma City this season because of hurricane damage in New Orleans.

Munters, a company specializing in the removal of water and dehumidifying buildings, began drying out the arena this week. The locker rooms and storage areas on the ground floor of the Arena had standing water, Menard said. Apparently water came up through the drains and into the building, he said.

“We no doubt had damage to many of the things stored there, like the basketball floor,” Menard said. “We have not been able to get it out and evaluate it. But it’s wood, and it’s been in standing water.”

Teams also were decontaminating the Arena bathrooms and a biohazard team is picking up the medical waste, Menard said.

Ellerbe Becket, a design firm that has studied the Superdome in connection with upgrading it for the New Orleans Saints, sent in an eight-person team of architects, engineers and construction professionals to evaluate the Dome.

“We had mapped out the Dome and had stored the information in our computer drafting systems here,” said Stuart Smith, spokesman for Ellerbe Becket. “We have the floor plan already in tow. The team that studied the Dome will have a head start in this situation.”

Experts will check all the operating systems including plumbing, electrical, audio, video and broadcast abilities. The structural components of the building will also be appraised.

“They want to know — did the storm weaken the building and if it did, can it be renovated and be as strong or stronger than ever,” Smith said.

The Office of Facility Planning and Control estimates $200 million in damage to the Superdome.