SBD/February 4, 2013/Facilities

Blackout At Superdome Raises Questions About New Orleans As Future SB Host

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Energy provider Entergy said the issue appeared to be on the customer's side
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome for 30 minutes last night was "bathed in auxiliary lights after a power outage cast a shadow on Super Bowl 2013 and New Orleans' otherwise flawless performance as host city of the NFL's big game," according to Richard Rainey of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. The cause of the outage and "what it might do to the city's bid for the Super Bowl in 2018 were the lasting uncertainties after the game." Local electric company Entergy and SMG, the management company of the venue, in a statement said, "Shortly after the beginning of the second half of the Super Bowl in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, a piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system. Once the issue was detected, the sensing equipment operated as designed and opened a breaker, causing power to be partially cut to the Superdome in order to isolate the issue." Rainey notes minutes from '12 meetings of the Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District "show multiple references to electrical work in the latter part of the year, underscoring the urgency to complete last-minute electrical work in advance of the Super Bowl." But it is "not clear whether there's a connection between the emergency work and Sunday's blackout." New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu "called for a full review of what happened" (NOLA.com, 2/4). USA TODAY's Lindsay Jones notes CBS' broadcast was "briefly knocked off the air, and all of the video boards in the stadium went dark." Full power was "not restored" until 7:58pm CT, and play resumed at 8:10pm. The outage caused "multiple problems in the stadium." Radio communication was "at least temporarily lost between the AFC coaches booth and the sideline." An elevator "went out of service, and air conditioning and Internet service were lost." CBS was able to "power up its set on the far side of the stadium, just past the Baltimore bench in order to broadcast updates during the outage." Entergy on Twitter said that there "were no power issues outside of the Dome." It added the "power issue at the Superdome appears to be in the customer's side" (USA TODAY, 2/4).

AS IT HAPPENED: Video from the control booth at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome moments before last night's power outage was shown on this morning's edition of "CBS This Morning." CBS’ Armen Keteyian was speaking with NFL Senior VP/Events Frank Supovitz for a segment scheduled to air on Showtime's “60 Minutes Sports” this Wednesday at 10:00pm ET when the lights went out. Keteyian said, "We were talking about the halftime clock and how Beyonce’s show had run three minutes long when everything changed, leading us to a search for answers that over 35 minutes never came.” Keteyian said in the control room, “There was no panic but there was an undeniable amount of uncertainty about the cause.” The video featured a short back-and-forth between Supovitz and SMG Senior VP/Stadiums & Arenas Doug Thornton, with Thornton saying, “Frank, we lost the A-feed.” Supovitz: “What does that mean?” Thornton: “That means that we have to do the bus tie.” Supovitz: “What does that mean?” Thornton: “That means about a 20-minute delay” (“CBS This Morning,” CBS, 2/4).

TOUGH BREAK: ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas wrote since the cause of the outage "wasn't known immediately, it's safe to assume that will be dissected as much as the game itself in the coming days" (ESPN.com, 2/3). ESPN.com's Greg Garber wrote the outage "spawned a series of surreal scenes." The crowd, with the "low buzz of a Sunday picnic, doing the wave when boredom quickly set in." The NFL "suits, phones pressed to their ears, glared at the vast ceiling" (ESPN.com, 2/3). NBC’s Jenna Wolfe was in the stands when the blackout occurred and she said, “Nobody panicked, nobody was overly concerned, nobody rushed the field. Everyone for the most part was calm" ("Today," NBC, 2/4). In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes, "Standing around in nothing but the emergency lights -- with fire alarms going off throughout much of the Superdome -- is the continuation of a rough week for Roger Goodell and presumably all the excuse corporate America will need to keep this game away from America’s best party city for quite some time" (K.C. STAR, 2/4). In N.Y., Ken Belson in a front-page piece writes it was "one of the oddest moments in Super Bowl history." The blackout is "certain to add to the legend of the Superdome." The NFL, which runs the Super Bowl with "an iron hand and brutal efficiency, is not used to random events during the games, which are tightly scripted for television networks." The power failure "immediately spawned an Internet frenzy," and a game "in danger of turning into a blowout had suddenly been given a jolt" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/4).

EMBARRASSING MOMENT: Jack Morton Worldwide Managing Dir Matt Pensinger writes, "For those of us who have seen all the planning and redundancies in place for global events, this is truly shocking #sportsbiz" (TWITTER.com, 2/3). In London, Julian Linden writes while "not uncommon in sports events played at night, the NFL and New Orleans officials were left red-faced and scrambling for answers." The stoppage was the "latest in a series of embarrassing Super Bowl incidents for the NFL" (London INDEPENDENT, 2/4). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes inside the Superdome, there "was an awkward, surreal silence." Ravens C Matt Birk said, "We all plugged in our phones at halftime. Maybe that's what caused it." Gay writes there was something "so fitting about the outage -- an embarrassing breakdown on this, football's biggest night." There is "no league as meticulously stage-crafted as the NFL, so slick and image-conscious, and yet over the past year the game has found itself under a siege it cannot control" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/4).

BACK FOR MORE? Goodell today said that the blackout "won't impact the city of New Orleans' chances of hosting another Super Bowl." Goodell said, "I full expect that we will be back here for Super Bowls. And I hope we will be back. We want to be back." Goodell added that there was "another alternative if the blackout had continued." He said that there was a "backup system that was ready to get rebooted when the lights were restored." Goodell: "I don't think this will have any impact at all on what I think will be remembered for one of the greatest Super Bowl weeks" (ESPN.com, 2/4). NFL Network's Albert Breer wrote, "Here's hoping that the blackout doesn't prevent future Super Bowls from coming here. Stadium's not great. But city's perfect for this week" (TWITTER.com, 2/4). The AP's Paul Newberry writes a Super Bowl week that had "gone so smoothly for the Big Easy suddenly turned bizarre when everyone was watching." The outage 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" (AP, 2/4). N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said, “The shame of it is this had been such a spectacular comeback week for New Orleans. It’s a great American city. This was a celebration of the city and everything went so great until (the blackout)” (“Today,” NBC, 2/4). Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde tweeted, "Hope New Orleans enjoyed this week. It won't get another Super Bowl after this" (TWITTER.com, 2/3). In Miami, Adam Beasley writes critics argue Sun Life Stadium "isn't modern enough to host another Super Bowl." But "at least they can keep the lights on in Miami Gardens" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/4).
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