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In 1940 the Louisiana legislature passed a law forbidding the naming of public edifices for politicians, so the Superdome will never bear McKeithen's name ("I might have liked that," the governor has said). But, no matter, McKeithen pressed for a building far grander than was possible.
"We were in the final planning stages," Moon Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans, recalls. "I was acting as the temporary head of the Superdome Commission at the time, and we absolutely had to give the architects the go-ahead or we were going to endanger our financing. We were all agreed on what should be in the Dome except for one thing. John McKeithen wanted a 440-yard track in the Dome so it could be used for an Olympics. He insisted, and he is a very stubborn man. Finally I called him up one day and I said, 'Governor, I've got something to show you, and I want your undivided attention.' I'd had a big overlay drawing made of that track and its straightaway and I showed the governor the floor plan for the Dome, and I put that overlay of the track on top of it, and the straightaway is clear out in the street. 'See, governor,' I said. 'It just can't be done.' And he looked at it real hard, and he looked up at me, and he said, 'Moon, you just send those architects back to work. I know you can get it in there somehow.' " But the governor never did get his track.
"I doubt if I'll sit in the Superdome very often," John McKeithen was saying, as he talked of the Dome at his rural home. "It's a six-hour drive, and I'm happy up here. I've always got the box." He pointed to a television set. Like Dave Dixon amid his elegant antiques, McKeithen will stay put on Hogan Plantation with his cotton and the armadillos. The two initial forces behind the Super-dome no longer seem particularly interested in what it is—or what it represents in our society. Like old pioneers, these men have moved closer to the reactionary past, having worked too long in the visionary future.
Going to the Dome
will be a thing in itself, one hell of a reason to have a party.
With 88 bathrooms, 40 hot-dog stands, 10 elevators and literally miles of carpeted ramps, Starship Superdome is a record breaker. A group of New Orleans physicians will operate a nine-bed clinic in the Dome as a year-round practice. Facing the street, with access from the Dome, will be a bank, a jewelry store, a men's clothing shop and other retail outlets. A wax museum and a health spa are planned.
If bio-support systems and a nuclear fuel supply were added, Starship Super-dome could be self-sufficient. A sports fan might never leave the Dome, living on beer, cola, hot dogs and oysters, sleeping on couches in the box suites, visiting the bank and the geriatric specialist at the clinic, going to the health spa for occasional exercise and, of course, watching television. How does I Love Lucy look, 22 feet by 26?
The Superdome concessionaire, Ogden Foods, will sink $6.8 million into the stadium's food and beverage complex. "Our company did the Astrodome," Ogden's Paul Mezzy says, "but this is much bigger than we anticipated. Why, we can't even use a centralized beer system as in other stadia. Beer can travel only 300 feet without losing head and gaining temperature. The distances in the Dome prohibit this. For a Super Bowl or similar big event we will use about 750 employees. We figure $1.75 per spectator on food." Please pass the Supermustard.
Ogden will also cater to the swank clubs in the Dome and to the 64 box suites. These suites, which will hold up to 30 people comfortably, will be far different from the opulent, personally decorated penthouses in the new Texas stadium outside Dallas. The Superdome is a state project, and it will lease boxes to individuals and corporations. "We've got 190 offers for the 64 boxes," says Bill Connick, the Dome's executive secretary. "We'll auction the boxes off for an average bid of $25,000 per year and mandatory season tickets to all teams."
The boxes will be decorated by the state. Says interior designer Theo Terzia, "These are just big party rooms. The decoration will cost about $35,000 per unit with two possible arrangements, four carpet colors and different upholstery and wallpaper so there will be a good bit of variation." The furniture and other effects were picked as much for "low-maintenance profile" as for design. "The Stadium Commission will reserve the right to recall the use of the boxes on special occasions," says Connick. "At conventions the trend is toward smaller meeting rooms for caucuses. So the boxes could be very useful."
Their decor will hardly be more dazzling than that of the whole Dome. Corridors, walk ramps, sections and sides of the Dome will be color coordinated. Even elevator buttons, escalators, uniforms and tickets will be color coded. The seats will come in 13 colors, four patterns and five sizes. Terzia claims these will be installed in a random pattern. But when you get to Seat No. 71,987, do you call down for a blue C5 or an orange C3? Inevitably all this color and patterning is not so much to warm the human heart as to please the camera eye. "Even when sections of the stands are empty, for instance, for baseball," Terzia explains, "the seats will look full." So the Dome, by design, is a gigantic television studio. Should blue shirts for gentlemen be required, and pancake makeup be made available in the lounges?