The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is no more! Well, kind of. It’s getting rebranded. After a contract with the German car company expired this year, an opportunity arose for other brands to sink their fingers into the desirable New Orleans home of the Saints. And the winner? Caesar’s Entertainment, of Caesar’s Palace fame. It’s causing a bit of a stir, but for better or for worse the new name of the Saints’ home is henceforth the Caesar’s Superdome. It’s really quite understated.
On Monday July 26th, Caesars Entertainment and the New Orleans Saints announced that they were entering into a 20-year partnership that would pave the way for the rebranding of the Saints’ home stadium. Now called the Caesars Superdome, the stadium will continue to host all home Saints games, as well as Superbowl LIX in 2025. Also touching gridiron in the stadium under the new name will be the 2022 NCAA Men’s Final Four, the annual Sugar Bowl and College Football Playoff contests. Concerts and events being held in the newly named stadium include Essence Festival, the Bayou Classic football game between Grambling State and Southern University, the New Orleans Bowl and the Louisiana State High School Athletic Association Football Championships.
Caesars Entertainment is building Caesars New Orleans downtown, and look at the partnership with the Saints as an opportunity to become more closely entwined with the city. Per a press release, “‘This partnership sends a strong message about the positive future for the New Orleans Saints, Caesars Entertainment, and the entire state of Louisiana,’ said Saints Owner Gayle Benson. ‘That message states that companies with the global reach of Caesars Entertainment are investing in our city, state and region. Caesars has long been one of the world’s most respected entertainment companies. Caesars is in the midst of creating a first-class multi-million dollar entertainment facility in downtown New Orleans, this significant investment also demonstrates the strength of their commitment to our state and region. We are proud to partner with a company that is dedicated to the economic growth of our city, state and region.’”
The Superdome’s History
Built in 1975, the Superdome has long been an icon for the Southern city, and during one particularly trying time in New Orleans history, it stood out as both a haven and a font of controversy. When Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, people turned to the Superdome as an evacuation shelter as the city intended. But as the monstrous storm grew in size and strength, the flow of haven-seekers increased to a tidal wave instead of slowing to a trickle as is usual before the arrival of a big storm. And once the storm had passed, leaving unimaginable damage in its wake, things got worse – the city’s levees breached, poor repair and poor preparation leaving them vulnerable to the Category 4’s immense influx of water. Those who had survived the storm now fled to the Superdome, overtaxing its limited resources. The location which had intended to serve a few thousand suddenly found itself housing nearly 30,000. There was no power, no running water, and the roof had sustained damage. Reports of what was happening to people inside the Superdome trickled out as the city reopened in the days after the storm; it was dangerously hot, and people were hungry and getting sick.
Most of the people sheltered in the Superdome were New Orleans’ poorest. Some too poor to evacuate, others remaining in the city in the hope of defending their only belongings against the looting which ravaged the cities in the days after Katrina struck. As a result, the city of New Orleans and State of Louisiana was somewhat stunted in its response to what was happening in the Superdome. Eventually, help was received and people were taken to safer shelters, but the memory of the Superdome as both a haven and a place of uncertainty and fear warred in the minds of locals.
The Superdome remained closed until 2006, when it was renovated and reopened. Mercedes-Benz purchased naming rights in 2011, and it’s been the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since then; until the contract expired. When it comes to the future of the stadium over the next 20 years, this is another chance for the Saints’ home to rise from the ashes of crisis. The press release adds, “‘Having faced a very trying 2020 with the Covid-19 Pandemic, this is wonderful news to see that two iconic brands like the Saints and Caesars are partnering on a long-term business deal that will not only benefit New Orleans, but the entire State,’ said Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. ‘I congratulate Mrs. Benson and her team on securing this partnership. Caesars Superdome is an iconic building, globally recognized and I am certain that Caesars will be very pleased having their name on the building that will be hosting future Super Bowls, Final Fours, and Essence Festivals, to name a few.’”
The NFL and Gambling
There is controversy surrounding the partnership with Caesars, however. The NFL has traditionally taken a hard-line stance against gambling. It wasn’t that long ago that they shut down a fantasy football convention in Dallas, TX, claiming it was too close to gambling. But over the past few years, the league has slowly softened its stance against gambling and this new partnership proves that things have changed greatly.
CBS Sports writes, “Fast forward a few short years and the league has fully embraced gambling and the billions in potential revenue it’s set to infuse into the league, to the point where the New Orleans Saints have now been allowed to enter a partnership that will eventually see Mercedes-Benz Superdome — an arena that currently shares a sponsor with the hated Atlanta Falcons — change its name to one of the most recognizable gambling venues in all the world: Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.”
Sports Teams Rebranding for Other Reasons
While the Caesars Superdome name change is happening simply due to contract changes, sports teams have made the news recently over rebranding themselves for less innocent reasons. In July 2020, the NFL’s Washington Redskins announced that they would be renaming themselves after enough public outcry was raised over the racist roots of the team’s name. Many people thought they should leave well enough alone after so many years, but it was the dissenting voices that won the day.
And a year later, the Cleveland Indians announced that they were changing their name as well, now called the Guardians. This change in names is part of an overall attempt to make sports more inclusive. The NFL made huge strides in that this year when the league openly came out in support of Gay Pride month in June.
To many, the comparatively simple – if somewhat controversial – name change of the Caesars Superdome is a breath of fresh air compared to the name changings rippling through the country for other reasons. While the name is a bit ostentatious, it certainly will have the Saints feeling ready to conquer.