Baseball and the
Superdome have had a strange relationship, one which runs more to heavy petting
than wedding bells, and this has been true from the beginning, for Dixon could
never quite see baseball in the Dome. "Baseball doesn't give you a good
return on your investment dollar," he says. "Why tie up the most modern
facility in the world on something like that? Sure, a few games. Pay the teams
as you would any nonsporting attraction instead of having them rent the Dome
for a whole season." The present Super-dome Commission, however, is
committed to securing a full baseball franchise, and negotiations with the
American League are said to be humming along. The commission believes a full
81-game home season is possible. In its baseball configuration the Dome seats
64,537 and will measure 320 feet down the foul lines, 410 feet in straightaway
center. No fly ball will ever hit the roof.
basketball Dixon wants two courts in the Dome, one in an end zone and one at
the 50-yard line, and eight teams playing simultaneous doubleheaders. "Say,
four geographically tight schools—LSU, Tulane, UNO and Xavier. Invite Ole Miss,
Mississippi State, Jackson State and Southern Miss and play Friday and Saturday
nights, switching opponents.
evenings like that with the biggest college entertainment in the country: Bob
Dylan, Led Zeppelin or whatever. Some will say this would make a farce of
college sports, but teams are for the kids, not for old alums like me." For
citywide playoffs, Dixon once proposed eight courts around the sidelines of the
Dome, on each court a different-colored ball and officials with differently
More important is
the Dome's scheme for pro basketball, since the National Basketball
Association's new franchise, the Jazz, will be playing there in October of
1975. The setup is unique: a section of the stands travels on tracks across the
wide Dome floor to make an arena configuration, putting 19,473 fans at
courtside. The same arrangement can be used for hockey, rodeos, ice shows,
circuses and smaller events.
It is odd to sit
in Dixon's elegant home, with its French antiques and rich-looking Chinese
screens and hear him discuss his futuristic ideas about sports. Though he is no
longer involved, his imagination is as fertile as ever about the Dome: a summer
entertainment festival, a Disneyland, a Marine World next door, an all-sports
Hall of Fame with wax figures, a Mardi Gras museum, cabarets, Pepsi-generation
kids by the hundreds, the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Icecapades, Harlem
Globetrotters, mini-Mardi Gras parades every day, a space ride on wires across
the Dome ceiling. And, if you must, even baseball games on slow afternoons.
I want one just
like this, only bigger.
—JOHN J. MCKEITHEN
Governor of Louisiana, on the 50-yard line,
Houston Astrodome, Jan. 3, 1967
invaded Caldwell Parish in northern Louisiana some years ago, like the idea of
the Astrodome. Local farmers carry 22s in their pickups and shoot armadillos on
sight. They may have wanted to do the same to ex-Governor McKeithen for his
fervid backing of the Superdome and its placement in downtown New Orleans.
inspiration for the Superdome came from Dave Dixon, the political and financial
weight came from John McKeithen during his tenure (1964-72) as a popular
governor. "A project that size quickly becomes a political liability,"
says McKeithen. "I considered abandoning it a number of times, but as the
opposition got more vocal, I got more stubborn."
What critics of
the Dome, be they rural Baptist farmers from McKeithen's home parish or
sophisticated Roman Catholic liberals from the urban South, could not overcome
was their governor's enthusiasm for football. He attended every game possible
while in the State House, was a dedicated recruiter for LSU and spared no
energy or expense to bring the quick and the strong to Baton Rouge. Nor has his
McKeithen's home situated amidst 2,000 acres of cotton and soybeans, one finds
the governor's son-in-law, Andy Hamilton, a wide receiver for the Kansas City
Chiefs, being wooed over the telephone by the Birmingham franchise of the World
Football League. The governor, dressed in a jump suit and looking very much
like a movie actor playing governor, is on an extension in his den asking
questions about options, salary and benefits. (Hamilton eventually turned down
the WFL offer.)