Superdome Infrastructure Eyed in Super Bowl Power Loss

The power loss during the Super Bowl is being blamed on an unspecified "abnormality" in electrical load at the point where utility feeder lines enter the Superdome. The feeder system to the stadium was reportedly upgraded in December.

Rich Miller

February 4, 2013

2 Min Read
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It's probably the most high-profile outage imaginable: A power loss at the stadium hosting the Super Bowl, in the middle of the game. How could this happen?

The power outage during the game is being blamed on an unspecified "abnormality" in electrical load at the point where the feeder lines from local utility Entergy Corp. enter the Superdome. The feeder system to the stadium was reportedly upgraded in December as part of broader power infrastructure improvements ahead of the game.

Local officials say a power monitoring system at the Superdome detected the problem and tripped a breaker during  the third quarter of the Super Bowl Sunday night, leaving parts of the Stadium running on auxliary power and causing a 35-minute delay in the middle of the world's most watched sporting event.

Attention quickly focused on recent upgrades to the electrical infrastructure at the stadium, which included the replacement of electrical feeder lines to the Stadium in mid-December, according to the Times-Picayune. Early Monday, stadium management said its preliminary review suggested the outage wasn't related to the upgrades.

The electrical monitoring systems at the stadium performed as designed, according to a joint statement from New Orleans utility Entergy Corporation and SMG, the management company of the Superdome.

"Shortly after the beginning of the second half, a piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system," the statement said. "The fault-sensing equipment activated where the Superdome equipment intersects with Entergy's feed into the facility.

"Once the issue was detected, the sensing equipment operated as designed and opened a breaker, causing power to be partially cut to the Superdome in order to isolate the issue. Backup generators kicked in immediately as designed. Entergy and SMG subsequently coordinated start up procedures, ensuring that full power was safely restored to the Superdome."

The Times-Picayune reports that in September the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, which operates the Superdome, approved $700,000 in spending to "upgrade electrical services at the Superdome," noting that the work on a secondary electrical feeder line "must be completed before the Super Bowl." The work, which was referred to in meeting minutes as the "Emergency Feeder Repair Project," was completed during a two-day shutdown of the Superdome in December.

The investigation is continuing, and the resulting incident report will be closely watched by the mission-critical community.

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