Catalyst for Louisiana Superdome dies at 87

Businessman Dave Dixon, who fought to bring an NFL team to New

Orleans and was the catalyst behind construction of the Louisiana

Superdome, died on Sunday. He was 87.

Dixon had been ill since January, said his son, Frank Dixon, who

confirmed his death.

”He was always coming up with new thoughts and ideas. Until his

dying day, he was thinking,” Frank Dixon said.

Dixon persuaded New Orleans officials to pursue a football

franchise rather than baseball in the 1960s. In his autobiography,

”The Saints, The Superdome and the Scandal,” Dixon wrote there

were strong reasons for the NFL to consider New Orleans, including

its mild winter weather, a great football tradition and 80,000-seat

Tulane Stadium. Dixon was a Tulane University graduate.

Dixon, whose supporters for a team included Gov. John McKeithen

and city restaurant owners, staged an NFL double header at Tulane

Stadium, which drew a crowd that nearly filled the place.

New Orleans was awarded the Saints on All-Saints Day 1966. Frank

Dixon said his father recently told him how the timing of the

announcement came about.

He said NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle called his father about

the deal and his dad suggested they wait a week to announce it on

that day.

”Both Pete Roselle and my father were great marketers,” Frank

Dixon said. ”I wonder where New Orleans would be today if it

didn’t have the Saints and the Superdome. I don’t think that ever

would have happened if my father wouldn’t have been here.”

Dixon started thinking about the stadium shortly after the city

got the team.

”I think as soon as Tulane agreed to let us use their stadium

for an NFL team I started planning the Superdome,” he told The

Associated Press in 2002. ”I knew having 80,000 people in those

neighborhoods 10 times a year was not going to work for long.”

The Superdome opened on Aug. 3, 1975. But it wasn’t until last

season that the Saints, a perennial loser, brought home a Super

Bowl victory to the city that is still recovering from 2005’s

Hurricane Katrina.

Dixon was elated at the team’s 31-28 overtime victory over the

Minnesota Vikings that sent the Saints to the Super Bowl. He was

forced to watch the game on TV because of his health.

”Oh, man,” he told AP the Monday after the win. ”I feel like

I’m in heaven. Just wonderful. I had a little heart problem. But I

feel much better. I’m very exhilarated over the Saints’ great

victory.”

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson said in a statement that

Dixon ”was a distinguished civic leader with a unique vision and

he was widely admired around our region as a leader who was

dedicated to the development of the Louisiana Superdome.”

Katrina ripped off part of the Superdome’s roof. It also failed

miserably as a shelter of last resort when the devastating storm

flooded the city. Thousands of people who had nowhere else to go

flocked to the stadium. Within days, the building was tattered,

filthy inside from mold, debris and raw sewage.

Over the next year, the Superdome was rebuilt, and slowly, New

Orleans has tried to get back to what it once was. The Saints

success has played a role in helping the city by giving it

something to celebrate.

Dixon worked with Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt to found

World Championship Tennis, Frank Dixon said.

In 1965, Dave Dixon conceived the idea for the United States

Football League, which operated from 1982 to 1985 before folding,

his son said.

”He believed in the brotherhood of man. He loved people and

people loved him back,” Frank Dixon said.

A funeral will be held Wednesday at Holy Name of Jesus in New

Orleans with visitation beginning at 10 a.m., followed by Mass.

Burial will be at Metairie Lake Lawn Cemetery in New Orleans.

Dave Dixon is survived by his wife; his three sons, David Frank

Dixon, John Shea Dixon and Martin Stuart Dixon and four

grandchildren.