A look back at the construction of the Superdome

A look at the history of the construction of the Superdome

NEW ORLEANS (WAFB) - Down in New Orleans, the WAFB team is ready to bring you all the LSU action all weekend long. That includes WAFB’s Matt Houston, who took a deep dive into the history of venue where LSU will make its stand, a place to find saints and watch miracles happen: the iconic Superdome.

It was constructed a bit like a puzzle. To pull off a building of this size in such a short time, lots of things have to go right.

“My wife tells me all the time I collect too much stuff," said Rhaoul Guillaume, an engineer at the Superdome.

It’s more than a scrapbook of moments, because without its contents, or perhaps, the man who collected them, so many memories would be so different.

“I’m glad I kept this stuff because it’s history. It’s good history,” Guillaume said.

Just six months removed from college in 1971, Guillaume was one of two civil engineers who oversaw the concrete and steel portion of construction on the Superdome.

“That was just an honor and a privilege to do that because I was just a young kid,” he said.

Now, he’s the head of a Baton Rouge engineering firm, but if you ask him if it’s possible to top this professionally? Not a chance.

“It’s still a symbol for the New Orleans area," he said.

While the Superdome’s outer dimensions are circular, the stands at field level are a mixture of a square and a circle. Architects call it a "squircle.” A short documentary on the Dome’s construction was commissioned for Guillaume as a way to hell his story. The dome itself had to be constructed piece by piece, held up with temporary beams until the rest of the frame was built, and when the support towers came down...

“It was all connected and released the towers and you just heard a big crackling like the roof was just setting down into place and it was all connecting and being stabilized,” Guillaume said.

And to keep it that way, designers hung a massive and somewhat rare video board at the Dome’s center; it helped to keep fans in the stadium after the game to alleviate traffic.

“Also, keep people in the stadium to buy more beer," Guillaume said.

And those rumors you may have heard about the cemetery beneath the field? Well, workers did find coffins as they dug down to lay their foundation, though they were identified and the graveyard was restored.

“There was a lot of unknowns, particularly underground, back in the days,” Guillaume said.

But these days, this new ground is familiar, especially for the LSU Tigers, who’d like to win another championship at the Superdome Monday night (Jan. 13). So it’s fitting that the team that represents Louisiana is playing in the building that represents the state’s spirit… just as it was built to do.

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