Outside experts to probe Super Bowl power outage

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Officials of the Superdome and its utility company said Tuesday that they will hire outside experts to investigate the cause of a 34-minute power failure that halted the Super Bowl.

The announcement by the stadium’s management company, SMG, and Entergy New Orleans came two days after the outage halted play in the third quarter of the game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.

The companies’ joint written statement did not explain the decision, but Entergy spokesman Chanel Lagarde told The Associated Press they had not been able to reach a conclusion on the cause of the outage and wanted a third-party analysis.

“We wanted to leave no stone unturned,” Lagarde said. “Both us and SMG thought it was important to get another party looking at this to make sure we were looking at everything that we need to examine.”

SMG spokesman Eric Eagan declined to comment Tuesday when asked specifically whether the two parties had been unable to determine a cause of Sunday’s outage or whether they had been unable to agree on one.

Records obtained by the AP on Monday show that Superdome officials were worried months ago about losing power during the NFL championship.

Tests on the electrical feeders that connect incoming power from utility lines to the stadium showed decay and “a chance of failure,” state officials warned in a memo dated Oct. 15. The documents, obtained through a records request by The Associated Press, also show the utility that supplies the stadium expressed concern about the reliability of the service before the Super Bowl.

The memo said utility Entergy New Orleans and the Superdome’s engineering staff “had concerns regarding the reliability of the Dome service from Entergy’s connection point to the Dome.”

The memo was prepared for the Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District, the state body responsible for the Superdome.

Authorities subsequently authorized spending nearly $1 million on Superdome improvements, including more than $600,000 for upgrading the dome’s electrical feeder cable system, work that was done in December.

“As discussed in previous board meetings, this enhancement is necessary to maintain both the Superdome and the New Orleans Arena as top tier facilities, and to ensure that we do not experience any electrical issues during the Super Bowl,” said an LSED document dated Dec. 19.

Superdome commission records show a $513,250 contract to replace feeder cables was awarded to Allstar Electric, a company based in suburban New Orleans.

Arthur Westbrook, Allstar’s project manager for the job, referred all questions about possible causes of the outage to the management company that runs the stadium.

A lawyer for the LSED, Larry Roedel, said Monday a preliminary investigation found the replacement work done in December did not appear to have caused Sunday’s outage.

Entergy and the company that manages the Superdome, SMG, said Sunday that an “abnormality” occurred where stadium equipment intersects with an Entergy electric feed, causing a breaker to create the outage. It remained unclear Monday exactly what the abnormality was or why it occurred.

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