NEW ORLEANS — The energy provider and management of New Orleans’ Superdome stadium worked to determine what caused a 34-minute power outage that shut down the biggest event in American sports, as local officials hoped the incident wouldn’t leave a black mark on the city or prevent the National Football League’s championship game from coming back to town.
The blackout was an embarrassment for New Orleans, which was hosting its first Super Bowl since 2002 and was eager to show off how it has been rebuilt since Hurricane Katrina.
The stadium became a focal point during the 2005 hurricane, when Katrina ripped off the Superdome roof as an estimated 30,000 people huddled inside. They waited, rain-drenched, for days in the severe heat that followed the storm in a stadium that was not prepared to house them. A lack of water, sanitation, electricity and security quickly turned the stadium into a horror scene.
Sunday night’s Super Bowl offered the chance for officials in New Orleans to show how the city had recovered since, and the week of activities leading up to the game was nearly perfect.
The blackout occurred more than half way through the game that was being watched on TV by an estimated 108.4 million people. The Nielsen Company said Monday that the Baltimore Ravens’ 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers was the third most-viewed program in U.S. television history. Both the 2010 and 2011 games hit the 111 million mark.
The Super Bowl is a major event across North America, similar to the World Cup globally. People gather for parties to celebrate the game and parking lots outside the stadium are crowded with partiers grilling barbeque and drinking beer in so-called tailgate parties.
A couple of potential culprits for the outage were ruled out Monday, as the Superdome’s manager, Doug Thornton, said it was not Beyonce’s electrifying half-time performance, since the singer had her own generator. And it apparently wasn’t a case of too much demand for power. Meters showed the 76,000-seat stadium was drawing no more electricity than it does during a typical New Orleans Saints football game, Thornton said.
The problem that caused the outage was believed to have happened around the spot where a line that feeds current from the local power company, Entergy New Orleans, connects with the Superdome’s electrical system, officials said. But whether the fault lay with the utility or with the Superdome was not clear.
Determining the cause will probably take days, according to Dennis Dawsey, a vice president for distribution and transmission for Entergy. He said the makers of some of the switching gear have been brought in to help figure out what happened.
Officials and residents alike stood up for their city on Monday.
“I hope that’s not what they’ll remember about this Super Bowl,” French Quarter artist Gloria Wallis said. “I hope that what they’ll remember is they had a great time here and that they were welcomed here.”
Mayor Mitch Landrieu told WWL-AM radio that New Orleans still wants to make a bid to host the big game again in 2018 and that the outage won’t hurt its chances. Sunday’s Super Bowl was New Orleans’ 10th as host, and officials plan to make a bid for an 11th in 2018.
Landrieu said league owners were impressed with the city’s performance as host and even joked that the game got better after the blackout. “”People were leaving and the game was getting boring, so we had to do a little something to spice it up,” he said.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said New Orleans was a terrific Super Bowl host and that the outage won’t affect future bids.