Mayor: New Orleans deserves Super Bowl spotlight


Mayor: New Orleans deserves Super Bowl spotlight

NEW ORLEANS (AP) A 20-story-high mural of the Lombardi Trophy, affixed to the glass exterior of a bustling hotel that was once a shattered symbol of Hurricane Katrina's devastation, rises like a beacon above the expansive white roof of the Superdome.

The Super Bowl is back in the Big Easy, finally, after 11 years, giving New Orleans a spotlight of global proportion to showcase how far it has come since Katrina left the city on its knees and under water in August of 2005.

``The story is much, much bigger than the Super Bowl,'' Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Monday afternoon. ``This is a story about the resurrection and redemption of a great American city.

``The Super Bowl gives us an opportunity to reflect on where we've been and where we're going.''

From 1970 to 2002, New Orleans was a regular host of the Super Bowl and hopes to become one again. This Sunday, when the Baltimore Ravens meet the San Francisco 49ers in the Superdome, the Crescent City will host the NFL's marquee game for the 10th time, tying Miami for the most of any city. If all goes well, it hopes to get back in the rotation.

Jay Cicero, president of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, said his group will ask the NFL for permission to put together a bid for the 2018 Super Bowl, coinciding with the city's celebration of its 300th anniversary.

It is that history, which produced a colorful culture driven by a mix of European, Caribbean and African influences, that makes New Orleans such an attractive Super Bowl city, noted political consultant James Carville said.

``This is not just a city. This is a culture,'' said Carville, who lives in New Orleans and serves as the co-chairman of the Super Bowl host committee with his wife and fellow political pundit, Mary Matalin. ``We have our own food, our own music, our own social structure, our own architecture, our own body of literature. By God, we have our own funerals.''

Carville pointed out that Dallas spent about $38 million to host a Super Bowl two seasons ago, that Indianapolis spent about $25 million a year ago, and that New Orleans spent about $13 million.

``I wish that I could tell you that it's because we're just so much more efficient,'' Carville said. ``The truth of the matter is we don't have to create anything in New Orleans. It's here. It's been here for 294 years. We just have to take what we have, shine it up a little bit, add a little something here and there - but 294 years of history and culture stand on its own.''

Of course, Carville was not counting the billions of dollars spent in the past seven-plus years to rebuild New Orleans since Katrina pushed tidal surges through crumbling levees and flooded 80 percent of the city.

Extensive renovations to the Superdome, done in several phases during six years, ran about $336 million, transforming the stadium to a facility better equipped to host a Super Bowl than it was back in 2002. The lower bowl has all new seats, wider concourses and more concession areas, not to mention exclusive ``bunker'' clubs for those who pay top dollar. There are four high-end club lounges around the second deck which did not exist before the storm. The smaller suites ringing the stadium have all been remodeled and more have been added to total 152.

The faded gray siding that lined the stadium when the Super Bowl was last played there has been replaced. The dents from flying storm debris are gone and it has been restored to its original, glistening champagne color, which serves as the canvass for nightly light shows. The roof was completely rebuilt and there is now a public plaza called Champions Square adjacent to the dome, where part of a shopping mall used to be.

The Louis Armstrong International Airport has undergone $350 million in upgrades, with work going on right up until this month.

Streets throughout much of the city, including downtown and the French Quarter, have been repaved.

A new streetcar line, which opened on Monday morning, can shuttle people from the city's main train and bus station a few blocks from the Superdome to Canal Street, where downtown meets the French Quarter.

There are more restaurants in the metro area than before Katrina. Hotels throughout downtown have been renovated and some new ones have gone up, adding more than 4,000 more rooms than there were in 2005.

The 1,200-room Hyatt Hotel, with the signature giant Lombardi Trophy mural,, finally reopened a little more than a year ago after a $275 million renovation. During Katrina, hundreds of its windows blew out, leaving shredded curtains flapping in the wind. Now it is home to new restaurants and rebuilt convention space.

``The city looks great,'' said Jerry Romig, the Saints' 83-year-old public address announcer, a lifelong New Orleans resident who has been involved in some capacity in the previous nine Super Bowls. ``It's never looked better.''

He also takes issue with the idea that sympathy for New Orleans' suffering played a role in NFL owners awarding the city this Super Bowl.

``The New Orleanean's attitude is they would be very upset if the NFL was going to throw you a bone because you went through a hard time,'' Romig said. ``The New Orleanean would think, `We should get this game every year because we're the best place for it.' ... We've got everything that's necessary to make it a success and that's being shown better this year than past years.''

Pockets of the city still bear obvious scars from Hurricane Katrina, most notably in eastern and low-lying portions of the city - like the lower Ninth Ward - were many homes were wiped out and many residents were too poor to rebuild.

So-called ``Katrina tours'' are still offered, with vans carting the curious to areas where they can see the remnants of the devastation - abandoned, crumbling homes and schools, and streets overgrown with weeds and brush.

When the city was bidding for the 2013 Super Bowl, it floated the idea of a Super Saturday of Service, whereby volunteers could undertake community projects to improve the city. This Saturday, restoration work will be done on five properties run by the New Orleans Recreational Department, including a high school football field where the Archie Manning's sons once played. After Sunday, the field will be the new home of the turf used in the Super Bowl.

Despite the community's ongoing needs, New Orleans has proved repeatedly in recent years that the heart of the city can successfully stage major national events. It hosted college football's BCS national championships in 2008 and 2012, an NBA All-Star game in 2008 and an NCAA men's Final Four in 2012.

Yet given how New Orleans was once a regular Super Bowl city, the return of the NFL's biggest game carries more symbolic weight than any single event since the storm.

``This is just another huge example of how the people of this city, who were 15 feet under water, are now on top of the world,'' Landrieu said.

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Caps prospect watch: Signing season?


Caps prospect watch: Signing season?

The 2018 NCAA Hockey Tournament bracket has been announced and only one Capitals prospect, Brian Pinho, is still in the running.

Providence College was selected as the No. 2 seed in the East Regional and will play No. 3 Clarkson in the first round on Friday, March 23 on ESPNU. The winner will play the winner of Notre Dame-Michigan Tech on Saturday with a chance to advance to the Frozen Four.

The college season is over for the rest of the Capitals' college prospects which begs the question, will any of them sign an entry-level deal with Washington?

In the spring when seasons end for colleges, junior leagues and European leagues, we see a flurry of signings across the NHL as teams sign their prospects and young free agents.

Among the Caps' college prospects, the most likely candidate to sign would be Shane Gersich. Gersich just wrapped up this third season at the University of North Dakota, finishing second on the team in goals (13) and tied for third in points (29). The Capitals will certainly make a push to sign him considering his talent and because if he returns to college for a fourth year, he stands to become a free agent on Aug. 15, 2019.

Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported Wednesday that North Dakota was still awaiting Gersich's decision on whether he planned to return to college.

Quinnipiac defenseman Chase Priskie is in a similar situation, but it he has decided to head back to school for another season.

“That wasn’t a season I’d want to leave on,” Priskie told the New Haven Register. “When I came here as a freshman I saw our senior class, Garteig, St. Denis, Soren Jonzzon, and they left such a legacy that guys still talk about them. Same for Sam Anas and Devon Toews. They were all such great players and some of the best people for our program. When I leave, I want to be talked about like they are.”


Other prospect notes:

  • For Pinho, now a senior at Providence, this marks an opportunity for him to finish his college career the same way he began, with a national championship. “I don’t think I realized at the time how hard it is just to get back to the tournament,” Pinho told the New Haven Register. “So that’s something we older guys have been telling the younger guys. You never know when you’re going to be back and you have to make the most of it when you’re there.” (You can read the full feature on Pinho here)
  • The end of the season may suddenly be near for goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov. Metallurg Magnitogorsk finds itself down 3-1 in its series with Ak Bars in the KHL playoffs meaning their season could be over as early as Friday. Of course, the big news to watch after that is whether or not Samsonov would come to North America. If he does, he would most likely go to Hershey to play for the Bears. With only 10 games remaining on Hershey's schedule, however, the sooner Samsonov's team is ousted from the playoffs, the better. At least from a Washington perspective.
  • All three of Washington's WHL prospects have reached the WHL playoffs. Moose Jaw (Dmitriy Zaitsev) finished with the best record in the league and will play Prince Albert in the first round. Swift Current (Beck Malenstyn) finished second in the East Division behind Moose Jaw and will play Regina. Everett (Garrett Pilon) won the U.S. Division and earned the top seed in the Western Conference. They will play Seattle in the first round.
  • Dmitriy Zaitsev remains out after taking an illegal hit last week. He did not play in either of Moose Jaw's final regular season games, but was a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
  • Adam Carlson has found his groove in Kansas City. Playing for the Mavericks of the ECHL, he won each of his two starts this past week allowing only one goal on 43 shots. He was named the 2nd star of the game for both games.
  • Madison Bowey recorded an assist on Friday and two more for Hershey on Saturday for three over the weekend in his first week back with the Bears. Bowey has spent the majority of the season with the Caps, but the additions of Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek at the trade deadline meant there were just too many bodies up in Washington and not enough playing time to go around. As Bowey is waiver exempt, he became the odd-man out and was sent to the AHL. It would not be surprising to see him recalled by Washington when the NHL playoffs begin.
  • Defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler brought his goal total up to five for the season with two goals against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Monday. The Bears really wanted to emphasize his offensive game this season to see if Siegenthaler could be developed into a two-way player. His strength is definitely is on the defensive end of the ice, but he will be a more versatile player if he can also be a threat offensively as well. You can see the highlights of Siegenthaler's two-goal game here:

  • Forward Hampus Gustafsson was recalled to Hershey last week and did not wait long to make an impact. He scored his first career AHL goal on Friday. He also added an assist making that game his first career multi-point game as well.
  • Tyler Lewington was suspended two games by the AHL for a punch he delivered to Bridgeport's Scott Eansor in Friday's game.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in this week's updated rankings 

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Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?


Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?

The Redskins sure hosted a lot of free agent defensive line visits in the second week of free agency, but so far, no signed contracts. 

Johnathan Hankins came to Ashburn. Sylvester Williams came to Ashburn. Pernell McPhee came to Ashburn. All three left without a done deal, and now for Redskins fans, the question becomes not about when a deal will get done, but if any deals will happen.

Actually, one deal did happen. According to a report, Williams has signed with the Lions. 

Since visiting the Redskins on Monday, Hankins also took a trip to see the Lions. McPhee, who was offered a contract by the Redskins, has since taken a trip to visit the Falcons. 


Keep in mind too, Washington expressed interest in nose tackle Bennie Logan last offseason, and the 6-foot-2, 309 lb., former Chief is again on the market. A visit from Logan would surprise nobody, though it hasn't been reported yet. 

Mother Nature might also be an impediment for the Redskins. A March snowstorm shut the D.C. region down on Wednesday, which could have limited potential free agent visits.

What's clear is between Hankins, McPhee and Williams this week, in addition to Muhammad Wilkerson and Benson Mayowa last week, the Redskins are obviously looking to upgrade their defensive line. Combine that with a contract restructure for incumbent Terrell McClain, and Washington has the flexibility to improve on last season's NFL-worst run defense. 

That doesn't mean, however, the Redskins will absolutely sign one of the above mentioned players. And it doesn't mean outside linebacker Junior Gallete won't return to the Redskins either. 

Many fans wonder if a McPhee signing means the Redskins would move on from Galette. It might, but that's no sure thing. 

Washington went into the 2017 season with five outside linebackers: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Galette, Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter. Right now, the 'Skins only have Kerrigan, Smith and Anderson under contract. The team needs to add at least one OLB, but likely two.

McPhee also carries about 20 extra pounds on his frame than Galette, giving the former Bear and Raven more flexibility to play against the run. Galette is a speed, leverage and moves player, focused on getting to the quarterback. He's capable against the run, but in the same way a sports car shouldn't carry a snow plow, Galette should be used to pressure QBs. 

Point being: McPhee and Galette could both make sense for the Redskins, if the team can work out the cash. 

Money usually matters the most in free agency, and it's clear the Redskins haven't made the type of offers that any of these players felt compelled to immediately sign. Deals could still happen though. Hankins didn't sign last offseason until April and Galette seems to thank Redskins fans via social media with relative frequency. 

Washington also had some success with the patient approach to free agency. The team was able to keep Zach Brown, though it took some nervous days of allowing the tackling machine linebacker to test the free agent market. With that win in hand, don't expect the Redskins brass to change their philosophy. 

Until further notice, it's hurry up and wait season in Ashburn.

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