NEW ORLEANS – The Superdome, heavily damaged when Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29, can be repaired and ready to reopen for major football events by Nov. 1, a consultant’s report says.

Repair costs are estimated at about $140 million and FEMA is expected to cover most of it.

the state’s insurance and by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“The Superdome has become the most recognizable symbol of New Orleans,” Tim Coulon, chairman of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition Board, said after report from the Ellerbe Beckett architecture firm was released. “The rebuilding of the Superdome will represent the rebuilding of the city.”

Repair costs are estimated at about $140 million and most of that is expected to be covered by the state’s insurance and by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The renovation will include extensive improvements to the building that can be done at the time at a lower cost. The enhancements, which include adding windows to sections of the exterior, renovating and upgrading suites and meeting rooms, adding new scoreboards and entrances for suite holders, would cost an additional $42,700, but over $13,000 would be covered by repair money.

A Nov. 1 opening would allow the state-owned Dome to again host the Sugar Bowl, the annual Bayou Classic game between Southern University and Grambling State, the New Orleans Bowl and state high school championships – lucrative games that had to be scheduled elsewhere this year.

Also, a Nov. 1 opening would enable the NFL’s Saints and Tulane University to play November and December home games in the Superdome.

“If everything goes well, we will have the Dome football-ready in November. The seating areas, locker rooms and press box will be ready and up to NFL standards,” said Doug Thornton, regional vice president of SMG, the company that manages the facility.

The plans have been shared with the Saints and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Thornton said. He would not say what the reaction was.

The enhancements planned would cover about 20 to 25 percent of the improvements envisioned in a massive Superdome renovation, Thornton said. He called it Phase 1, saying Phase 2 would run about $135 million more.

“We would propose Phase 2 if we had a long-term agreement with the team,” Thornton said.

The Superdome’s structural frame was not affected by the hurricane. The building lost 70 percent of its roof, however, which resulted in major damage as rain poured into the building.

All of the carpet, about 53,000 square yards, must be replaced, 30 percent of the drywall and 15 percent of the ceiling tiles must be replaced.

Much of the upholstered furniture was damaged by water and mold, including all of the furnishings of the box suites.

About 35 percent of the seats in the arena had water damage.

The football turf was damaged by contaminated water and will be replaced.

Eleven of the Superdome’s 38 escalators and six of the 15 elevators will be replaced. The four main scoreboards must be replaced. Two new video boards installed last season are operational, but still being tested. And the building’s telephone system flooded and must be replaced.

The Superdome was used as a shelter for between 25,000 and 30,000 people following Hurricane Katrina.

There are no plans to upgrade the building as a shelter in the proposed work because there is no money for it, Thornton said. Thornton estimated such an upgrade would require raising the generator and air conditioning equipment, which nearly flooded during Katrina. That would cost between $30 and $40 million. FEMA will not pay for the work.

Officials need to make some plans for an alternative shelter, he cautioned. During hurricane season next year the Superdome will be a construction site.

“I can’t imagine it being used as a shelter because of all the tools and equipment in here,” Thornton said.

AP-ES-12-13-05 1800EST

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