SBD/February 5, 2013/Facilities

Superdome Electrical System Upgrades May Have Played Role In Power Outage

New electrical equipment had been tested three times prior to Sunday's blackout
Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Entergy New Orleans officials prior to Super Bowl XLVII were “fearful of a blackout not unlike one that marred" Steelers-49ers "MNF" game at Candlestick Park in December ‘11 and “embarked on a last-minute, multimillion dollar effort to ensure such a spectacle wouldn’t be repeated," according to Russell & Thompson of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. But “11th-hour upgrades” to the Superdome’s electrical system “may have contributed to the 34-minute power outage.” Entergy in December was “in the process of completing a $4.2 million upgrade to the stadium’s electrical system.” With that new equipment “coming online," Superdome officials "tested their own power lines and found the equipment had ‘some decay and had a chance of failure.’” An engineer hired by the Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District, the public agency that owns the Superdome, “warned that the stadium’s main power feed was ‘not sufficiently reliable to support the high-profile event schedule.’” Superdome officials “quickly authorized a rash of repairs.” Officials said that those upgrades “meant that the Dome theoretically had a state-of-the-art -- and more reliable -- electrical setup.” While the upgrades “weren’t completed until about six weeks before” the Super Bowl, Entergy Louisiana VP/Transmission & Distribution Operations Dennis Dawsey said that the new equipment “had been tested by a trio of large-scale sports events since then," including the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, a Panthers-Saints game on Dec. 30 and the Allstate Sugar Bowl (NOLA.com, 2/4).

NO NEED FOR PLAN B: SMG Senior VP/Stadiums & Arenas Doug Thornton, whose company operates the Superdome, said that because the Super Bowl took place on “a cool night, the power consumption was actually below that” of a typical Saints game in August or September, when the “air conditioners are working overtime” (L.A. TIMES, 2/5). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday said that the Superdome had a “backup power system which was about to be used during the Super Bowl's electrical outage,” but that it “wasn't needed because power started coming back at that time.” NFL Exec VP/Business Ventures Eric Grubman said Goodell had the “sole authority” to enforce any contingency plans. Grubman: “He was there and he had the full reports. We were quickly able to determine we did not have a situation that would cause a permanent interruption in the game.” Grubman added the league has "backup plans" for continuing a game that is delayed. The AP’s Barry Wilner noted those plans “all focus on playing the full 60 minutes, regardless of whether it is the same day or on another day” (AP, 2/4). In N.Y., Thompson & Vacchiano report Goodell’s “denials that the halftime show triggered the outage didn’t stop speculation that the massive show had something to do with the blackout.” Thornton said that the halftime show was “on a separate generator and was not drawing power from the stadium’s resources.” Grubman said the blackout “looms actually pretty small in the grand scheme of things” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/5).

EMBARRASSMENT FOR THE LEAGUE: In Boston, Shalize Manza Young writes the power outage was an “embarrassing event on sports’ grandest stage, and regardless of whether there is any blame to be placed, it doesn’t erase the fact that the NFL’s marquee showcase was unexpectedly interrupted” (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/5). The N.Y. Daily News' Bob Raissman said the NFL “is a buttoned-up organization that prides itself in doing everything correctly, very image-conscious." Raissman: "Well, their image took a big hit because it looked like they were inept” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y., 2/4). SportsNet N.Y.’s Eamon McAnaney said the blackout “happened on the NFL’s watch." If this occurred during the World Series, “every media guy with a media pass would say, ‘This would never happen in the NFL.’” McAnaney said “it was a clown show” and the NFL “had no idea what they were doing.” He asked, “Where was Roger Goodell? Nowhere to be found” (“Loud Mouths,” SportsNet N.Y., 2/4). SportsNet N.Y.’s Ryan Asselta said the blackout “increases the pressure” on Super Bowl XLVIII, which is being played in MetLife Stadium, because the NFL “is not going to want another snafu of some kind.” Asselta: "The pressure’s on for New York and New Jersey” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y., 2/4). But ESPN’s J.A. Adande said the blackout will not “go down as the defining moment of this game.” It also will not “deter -- I don’t think -- the Super Bowl from coming back to New Orleans” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/4).

LEAGUE SHOULD HAVE HAD GREATER PRESENCE: ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said the NFL “made a mistake” with the blackout, as league officials "should have been much more outfront with the conditions that causes power outages." Kornheiser, speaking to "PTI" co-host Michael Wilbon, said, "You and I are certainly old enough to remember Katrina and what took place in that particular building, and so we could have thought it was an act of sabotage, we could have thought it was an act of terrorism.” Kornheiser said the NFL needed to get “somebody out there upfront to say, ‘We don’t know. We’re working on it,’ or something like that” ("PTI," ESPN, 2/4). In Miami, Greg Cote wrote, "The first reaction when the lights went out? Terrorism. Just for a second.” Cote: “This was not an oops. This was a monumental embarrassment.” The second reaction was “to smile, think parochially and picture members of the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee braying laughter.” But the lights going out “breathed electricity into the game itself, transforming what was looking like an awful, anticlimactic rout and turning it into one of the most compelling Super Bowls ever” (MIAMIHERALD.com, 2/4). SPORTING NEWS’ Vinnie Iyer wrote, “When you’re dealing with restoring power on such a large scale, recovering after just 34 minutes should be seen as a positive. After all, recovering is what New Orleans does best” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 2/4).
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