INDIANAPOLIS — It has been 10 years since New Orleans last hosted a Super Bowl. And people in Crescent City can’t wait for the drought to end next season, when the title game will come to town for the 10th time.
Representatives from the city, the state of Louisiana and the Super Bowl XLVII Host Committee have been in Indianapolis all week to give people a preview of the game and culture. From a media guide full of Southern-style recipes to Mardi Gras beads, fleur-de-lis pins and samples of king cake at the Super Bowl media center, one thing is clear: New Orleans won’t have any trouble throwing a Super Bowl party.
“This is going to be probably the most important party that New Orleans has thrown ever,” said chef John Besh, a native of New Orleans. “I think it will be that turning point, letting the world know that we’re in better shape than we were before. We’ve rebuilt smarter and better, righting some of the wrongs of the past and creating a much more sustainable city and a better city.”
New Orleans was in the running to host earlier Super Bowls, but those plans were altered when Hurricane Katrina decimated the city Aug. 29, 2005, causing more than $81 billion worth of damage. The Superdome, home to the Saints (and, next year, Super Bowl XLVII), served as a refuge for evacuees, but with no running water and holes in the ceiling, it needed massive repairs.
“We’re back, and we want everyone to know that Katrina’s our past,” said Allison Baznik, media and public relations coordinator for the Super Bowl XLVII Host Committee. “It’s not who we are, and we have really done a good job of rebuilding the city, and I think it’s better than it’s ever been.”
According to Besh, the quadrant of the city where the Superdome, Champions Square and the new Hyatt Hotel stand “is just on fire” with redevelopment. It’s a point of pride for Besh, who owns several restaurants in the area and was recognized by Food & Wine Magazine as one of the “Top 10 Best New Chefs in America” in 1999.
“The people that stayed there after the storm to rebuild now have this new civic awareness, where we care,” Besh said. “We are a lot less tolerant of some of the problems we’ve had in the past. We own that city, and so that’s the big change, the people taking more pride in the city, and we can’t wait to show the world just how good we are.
“The icing on the cake would be getting the Saints there to have home-field advantage in the Super Bowl. It’s like 25 Mardi Gras all wrapped into one.”
– Matt Florjancic, Special to NFL.com