On September 25, 2006, the New Orleans Saints returned to the Superdome.
After Hurricane Katrina, the Superdome was used to house an estimated 30,000 displaced New Orleans residents whose homes were destroyed from flooding after the levees broke.
Displaced from their home base, news surfaced that the Saints may not be returning to the Superdome, which had extensive roof damage from the hurricane, or even to New Orleans.
According to The New York Times, Saints owner Tom Benson was unhappy with the New Orleans market, and the condition of the Superdome, and had been negotiating the team’s lease with the State of Louisiana since early 2005. In May 2005, months before the storm, Benson’s attorney told a local reporter in San Antonio that the team owner was seriously considering a move to San Antonio.
Then came the devastation that followed Katrina, forcing the Saints to move their home games to Baton Rouge, San Antonio, and New Jersey during the 2005 season. Benson would not commit to returning to the city, even firing team Vice President Arnie Fielkow, who was against a planned move.
Then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue stepped in to find a common ground with Benson and the state. In an interview with Mark Kriegel of the NFL Network, former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco recalled a conversation with Tagliabue that would solidify the Saints’ stay in New Orleans.
“Paul came to me at one point in time and he said, ‘Governor, if you can get the dome open, I will make sure that Tom Benson does not leave the city of New Orleans,’” Blanco said during the interview.
The renovations finished just in time for the September 25, 2006, season opener game against the Atlanta Falcons.The home game would be marked with a blocked punt and recovery by Steve Gleason and Curtis Deloatch, respectively. In 2012, a statue of the play, named “Rebirth” was erected in front of the Superdome to pay homage to the resiliency and perseverance of New Orleans.
Help inform our coverage as we build a newsroom for and by the people of New Orleans:
Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts with us by answering each question.