The Louisiana Superdome, that fabulous old UFO-shaped stadium in the heart of New Orleans, holds on tight to its identity. Every time someone tries to muck with the image of one of America's most enduring domes, something seems to happen to foil the plan.
When former Louisiana governor "Big John" McKeithen, a famously enthusiastic professional football fan who championed construction of the stadium in the 1960s, died in 1999, a lot of people wanted to rename the dome in his honor. But the idea fizzled. Ultimately, the sports complex that encompasses the Superdome and a neighboring pro basketball arena were named after McKeithen, but the big prize -- the name on the dome that dominates the New Orleans skyline -- remained unclaimed.
Later, in the emotional days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a plan to paint a gigantic America flag on the dome alongside the words "God Bless America" was rejected by the state legislature.
Now the people who operate the dome are running into all kinds of trouble trying to sell naming rights to the stadium. No one wants to take a risk on a 10-year contract -- at $3 million to $5 million a year -- because the dome's biggest tenants, the New Orleans Saints, are in a nasty squabble with the state of Louisiana over subsidies that some fear could end with the team bolting for another city.
In a state that only has one Fortune 500 company, the market for renaming the stadium looks so weak that the stadium's managers are giving up for now, Superdome spokesman Bill Curl says.
"We're pretty hindered," Curl said. "We just don't have that many corporations with pockets that big."
-- Manuel Roig-Franzia