Superdome commission eyes change to power system

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.