NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The panel that runs Louisiana's Superdome approved spending up to $100,000 on Wednesday for a study of possible enhancements to backup power systems that run escalators, toilets and essential operations during emergencies.
Dome manager Doug Thornton says the emergency systems worked during the Super Bowl — when a problem traced to a utility company's equipment caused a partial power outage and suspension of the NFL game for 34 minutes. But he said the current backup generator system was designed to maintain generator power when the dome is being evacuated, not accommodate fans staying through a temporary outage.
In addition to emergency systems, Thornton said, the study would also include a comprehensive look at dome electrical and mechanical systems and operating and maintenance procedures.
In an interview after Wednesday's meeting of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, Thornton said the enhancements he envisions wouldn't avoid interruption of a game in the event of an outage. It would be aimed at improving comfort and safety during a temporary outage. "I'm talking specifically about escalators, elevators, water pumps that are required to flush toilets in the upper levels of the building, maybe a chiller for air conditioning and possibly even a video screen or a message board for messaging to the public," Thornton said.
Fans interviewed as they exited the dome on the night of the outage described it as an annoyance, reporting inconveniences such as being unable to use credit cards at some concession stands. But there were no reports of disturbances or other emergencies. NFL officials have had praise for the city's successful hosting of the game and said the outage would not affect the city's chances of hosting the 2018 Super Bowl, which it's vying for.
There have so far been no indications that equipment in the state-owned stadium was at fault. Officials with Entergy Corp., the parent company of the utility that serves the dome, have said the outage was caused by an electrical relay device it installed specially to prevent a power failure at the stadium. But it's unclear whether the device had a design flaw or a manufacturing defect or if there was a problem in the way was set to trigger a break in current in the event of a power surge or other electrical problem.
Entergy and the management company that runs the dome for the state, SMG, recently announced the hiring of Utah-based forensic engineer John Palmer to perform an independent analysis of the outage. Thornton, an SMG vice president, told the board that Entergy is bearing the full cost of that analysis. It is unclear when Palmer will report.