Acadiana Business

Mercedes-Benz inks Superdome naming rights

by Leslie Turk

Sharon Moss has got to be smiling about this deal: the Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Six years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and turned the Superdome into the shelter of last resort, the city continues to rebuild, the Saints are on another winning streak and the totally renovated dome has a new name. Like many other professional football teams, the Saints have sold the naming rights to their stadium to luxury German carmaker Mercedes-Benz.

The Saints and the state will announce the 10-year deal Tuesday afternoon and make public details about the financial arrangement, which is expected to generate enough revenue to end the state's direct subsidy. According to media reports, the first change will be effective with the Oct. 23 Monday Night Football game between the Saints and Colts.

Saints owner Tom Benson owns Mercedes dealerships in New Orleans and San Antonio.

The 36-year-old Superdome, one of the best-situated stadiums in the NFL because of its accessibility and proximity to New Orleans' rich culture, was so severely damaged during Hurricane Katrina that many lawmakers thought it should be demolished. Then Gov. Kathleen Blanco, however, ordered a quick renovation, and it reopened for the 2006 Saints season. Some $336 million in renovations was paid for by the state.

The Times-Picayune reported on the deal late Monday night:

And the stadium's profile will be raised as it hosts three national sporting events in the next 16 months: January's BCS championship game, April's men's Final Four and in February 2013, the Super Bowl. Those events and the success and stature of the building's primary tenant -- the Saints -- helped persuade Mercedes-Benz to sign on.

"Americans love stories of comebacks," said Steve Cannon, the vice president of marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA. "They love re-inventions. They love re-definitions. For that reason, the city of New Orleans and the New Orleans Saints as an organization is kind of symbolic of that re-invention, rebirth.

"Certainly those images that go back to Katrina are a difficult chapter for all of us, but to see out of that experience a brand new stadium inside and out completely renovated, a driver of economic development within that city and state and for us to be a part of that story was a good thing. For us this is a local deal, a regional deal and a national deal because we think it plays on every single one of those levels."

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