Last year's showdown between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers was more memorable for its plunge into darkness than for any play on the field. An electrical malfunction caused the lights at New Orleans' Mercedes-Benz Superdome to go out for 34 minutes, interrupting the game's second half.
The NFL later confirmed that a faulty relay device—intended, ironically, to prevent a power failure—was to blame for the outage. The stadium's electricity supplier, Entergy, said the device had been taken permanently out of service. (See related stories: "What Caused the Super Bowl Blackout at the Superdome?" and "Super Bowl Blackout: Was It Caused by Relay Device, or Human Error?")
The outage was another blow to a city—and stadium—that had spent more than seven years battling back from natural and ecological disaster. New Orleans aimed to set a new mark for environmental sustainability with its ninth turn at hosting the NFL's marquee event, reflecting a broader green movement that is changing the look of stadiums and attitudes throughout the sports world.
Despite the electricity mishap, the Superdome remains outfitted with protective and energy-saving features installed during a $336 million restoration of the "refuge of last resort" for 30,000 people during Hurricane Katrina. The stadium's outer wall has a specially designed double barrier system with improved insulation and rainwater control. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, as it is now known, is ringed with 26,000 LED lights, covering two million square feet and supported by five miles of copper wiring, but which draw only ten kilowatts of electricity—as much as a small home.
The stadium stands as an example for "not just rebuilding what was there before, but making it more environmentally sound," said Patty Riddlebarger, director of corporate social responsibility for Entergy.
Entergy donated carbon credits—investments in projects that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—to offset the estimated 3.8 million pounds of emissions expected to be generated due to energy use at the Super Bowl venues. New Orleans' Second Harvest Food Bank recovered approximately 36,000 pounds of unused food from all Super Bowl events to donate to those in need. And two nonprofits, the Green Project and REPurposingNola, reclaimed Super Bowl banners, displays, and other promotional items to be recycled into souvenir items such as tote bags, wallets, and shower curtains. Signage will again be donated for repurposing at this year's event.
The Host Committee organized a Super Bowl Saturday day of service focused on continuing restoration. New Orleans is one of the most deforested cities in the United States, having lost 100,000 trees to Katrina's wind and standing saltwater. The urban forestry initiative Hike for KaTreena planted its 20,000th tree that Super Bowl weekend, and planted 7,000 of them just for the game (a Super Bowl tree-planting record). And because that Saturday was World Wetlands Day, local students joined a coastal restoration project in Bayou Sauvage Wildlife Refuge coordinated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose then-administrator, Lisa Jackson, is a New Orleans native.