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Wreckage to Rebirth:
A Transformation of the Louisiana Superdome Post-Hurricane Katrina

By Monica Helms, consultant to Pavestone Company

A series of color-changing fiber optic lights were installed along the stairway; the light boxes were installed in the paving stones and had to be meticulously coordinated so as to be perfectly lined up and level.
Photos: Pavestone Company

At 269,000 square feet, the Louisiana Superdome creates an impressive silhouette against the downtown New Orleans skyline. Located just east of the Superdome, one can find another 121,000 square feet of something to be impressed by - Champions Square.

Having opened during August 2010, the Square has since become one of the city's most popular entertainment destinations. After the previous football season, this festival area just adjacent the Superdome closed for renovations in order to complete Phase II of construction. Phase II of the renovations included the creation of a permanent Grand Staircase featuring amphitheatre-style seating, brick paving stones in the Square and adjacent LaSalle Street, permanent restroom facilities under the southeast ramp next to the Grand Staircase, and scenic touches including a green wall over the LaSalle Street ramps and the planting of palm trees in the Square.

A third phase to the paving project is scheduled for completion in 2013. The third phase will add another 500,000 square feet of pavers to the site.

With its completion, Champions Square has become a hub of vibrant activity during events, with a variety of food and drink vendors and a state-of-the-art sound and lighting stage for concerts, festivals, corporate events and more.
"When you come out of the doors of the Superdome, there used to be a bridge from the Superdome to the hotel. In order to create a more open atmosphere, that bridge was taken out and steps were added that lead down to Champions Square," Eddie Newsom of Pavestone Company said. "Each tier, including the roadway of LaSalle Street and even Champion Square itself, is made up of different-colored City Stone(TM) paving stones."

Rod Trahan of LA Pavers, the contracting company responsible for laying the paving stones, added, "It was a complete overlay of the street; they raised the entire plaza area. The street had to be raised by about two and a half feet in some places, just to eliminate the need for some of the steps leading up to the Superdome."

LA Pavers also worked in conjunction with All-Star Electric to install fiber optic light boxes in the paving stones over the podium deck area.

"The most critical part of the project was that it had to be done so fast," Trahan said. "It was pretty crazy for a few weeks, with the pressure of getting everything open for the football games. All of the podium light paving stones had to be put in so people could access the dome. Everything had to be perfectly lined up and level; so it was like a dancing coordination between All-Star Electric and LA Pavers."

The "street" paving stones were laid in a herringbone pattern so as to help differentiate them from the actual plaza area. Silver, dark brown, and pewter-colored paving stones were also used to help with this distinction.

Paver Installation
The actual design of the paving stones added pressure to an already tight timeline, as well.

"Because of the mixture of shades and patterns and colors, we had to lay everything by hand. It's a modern design type of project that's becoming very popular in cities now," Trahan said.

Thanks to this creative use of herringbone and linear patterns and silver, dark brown and pewter-colored paving stones, patrons are able to easily distinguish between the roadway and festival area paving stones. For safety reasons, the one-block stretch of LaSalle Street has been permanently closed to vehicular traffic, and eventually the area will be transformed into an urban mall.

With just a glance, onlookers can easily discern why the paving stones making up Champions Square play witness to significant amounts of foot traffic before and after events.

"The pavers on Champions Square might see up to 200,000 people in one day; that's on a Sunday alone," Newsom said.

It's no secret that the motivations behind the refurbishment and addition of paving stones to the stadium and its surrounding offerings were mainly economic in nature. With the growing availability of concessions and eventual addition of a mall, Champions Square is expected to rise to the occasion and soon play a significant role in the commerce of downtown New Orleans.

In the day time, the fiber optic light boxes look simply like small white squares in between each paving stone. At night, they light up in an array of colors, which helps light the steps and serves an aesthetically pleasing purpose.

More Renovations
Phase III of the renovations planned for Champions Square are intended to be completed sometime in 2013, which will include the addition of more paving stones, as well as a permanent
food court.

"Eventually, about another half a million square feet of pavers will be going into the project," Newsom said. Currently in use is a mixture of six-inch by 12-inch City Stone(TM) paving stones; the pavers are arranged in four rows of each color.

The primary mission of the first two phases intends to establish that the concept will function as a sustainable business model. In addition to concessions and the attraction of events to the state-of-the-art sound and lighting stage, the renovations also establish Champions Square as a definitive place for Saints fans to congregate before and after games.

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December 8, 2019, 8:44 am PDT

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