New Orleans' Superdome named federal historic site

The Superdome in New Orleans became a shelter of last resort for thousands during Hurricane Katrina.

Story highlights

  • A shelter for Katrina evacuees, Superdome also hosted Rolling Stones, Jay-Z, Muhammad Ali
  • U.S. Department of the Interior added 76,000-seat stadium to National Register last month
  • State agency that owns stadium opposed designation, saying it could hamper improvements

(CNN)New Orleans' Superdome, the shelter of last resort for at least 25,000 evacuees during Hurricane Katrina, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places despite some objections from its state owner.

The Superdome, home to the NFL's New Orleans Saints, has also hosted performers from the Rolling Stones to Johnny Cash to Jay Z. Pope John Paul II drew 80,000 to the venue in 1987, and the Republican National Convention was held there in 1988 -- not to mention a fair number of sporting events, ranging from the NCAA Final Four to Muhammad Ali's last victorious bout.
But for many, the Superdome "became a symbol of the breakdown and failure of government at the state and local levels in disaster preparedness, and a symbol to the nation of Hurricane Katrina," said the application seeking the historic site status.
The stadium, now known as the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, received the designation last month.
During the 2005 storm, thousands of New Orleans residents took shelter in the dome.
The scope and size of the disaster resulted in breakdowns in basic supplies, making it difficult if not impossible to take care of the thousands in the 76,000-seat dome, which opened in 1975.
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There were reports of rapes and deaths amid the stadium's deplorable conditions before it was eventually evacuated.
After the storm, an estimated 41,400 people, including tens of thousands who had sheltered there, gathered at the stadium to be bused to Houston, the application said.
The National Register designation includes protections and tax benefits for the property, but the state agency that manages the dome cited concerns that the status could slow down or hamper improvement efforts.
In a statement, Shawn Bridgewater, an attorney for the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, said the governing authority will "continue to investigate the effects, if any, on our ongoing obligation to maintain the Superdome as a world-class venue. Our evaluation is focused on ensuring that the Superdome's operations and future capital maintenance and improvements are not impacted as we continue the stadium's legacy."
More than 90,000 locations are on the National Register, including sites from the fabric of everyday American life, such as post offices, old factories and historic neighborhoods, as well as venues with historical importance, such as Dallas' Dealey Plaza, the scene of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963, and the Ohio prison made famous in the 1994 movie "The Shawshank Redemption."
The dome was added to the register last month after the unanimous approval from the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development's Division of Historic Preservation and then the U.S. Department of the Interior's OK.