NEW ORLEANS — Doug Thornton has had worse moments in the Superdome.
Particularly on Aug. 29, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina ripped open the roof of the facility, causing damage so severe that the Dome couldn’t be reopened until more than a year later.
To Thornton, senior vice-president of SMG, which manages the Superdome, Sunday’s 34-minute power failure early in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII was embarrassing because it happened on sports’ biggest stage. But ultimately, it will be remembered as a blip during an otherwise grand week for the city.
“It’s very personally disappointing that we had to delay the game for a period of time,” Thornton said Monday during a post-game news conference. “Otherwise, this was shaping up to be the one of the greatest weeks in the city’s history, and the event had been flawless.
“There’s no question that this is actually pretty small in the grand scale of things.”
Especially when it comes to New Orleans’ pursuit of what would be a record 11th Super Bowl as early as 2018, the city’s tricentennial year.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that the outage will have no effect on New Orleans’ next bid.
“The most important thing is to make sure people understand it was a fantastic week here,” Goodell said. “This will not affect our view about the success of the game here in New Orleans.
“We know that they have an interest in future Super Bowls. I fully expect we’ll be back here for Super Bowls. We want to be back here.”
The exact cause of the power failure was still under investigation Monday. Officials said it appeared to involve the sensory equipment at the junction where the electrical supply from Entergy enters the Superdome.
Thornton said it had nothing to do with the halftime show by Beyoncé, which used separate generator power, emergency electrical work done to the facility in December or the fact that the Superdome is 38 years old.
Entergy CEO Charles Rice said to his knowledge there had never been a blackout during a Superdome event before.
“When you’re relying on systems, it’s not human error,” Thornton said. “It’s an equipment error.
“We’ll get to the root cause of it.”
Thornton added that within a couple of minutes of the outage, experts on the scene had determined that it would not last any longer than it took the system to reboot itself, although obviously that is considerable in a large indoor stadium.
There was never any consideration given to not resuming the game.
Goodell also praised the efforts of all involved in helping the more than 70,000 people inside the building to remain calm as the issues were resolved.
There was one reported minor injury reported as a result of an escalator coming to a sudden stop.
That was extraordinary, NFL Vice President of Business Operations Eric Grubman said, considering that with the Super Bowl being a National Security Event the tension level for an unexpected occurrence would be higher than normal.
“People stayed calm,” he said. “Everyone wants to watch a football game, and so the fans acted with the belief, because the PA announcer made the announcement that there was a power problem and that it was going to come back on.
“Even if the fans didn’t understand it, I think they were confident that it was a power issue that was going to be resolved.”
In fact, about the most upset person about the outage appeared to be Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh, who was seen berating league officials shortly before play resumed.
But Monday, Harbaugh, whose team would win, 34-31, said the outage itself wasn’t the cause.
“I was just concerned about some things that had to do with headsets and coaches in the press box if you have to bring guys down,” he said. “It was a total overreaction on my part, and I feel bad about it.
“It was the one thing when I look back on the game I am disappointed in myself about. I didn’t have very much poise in that moment.”