When the Louisiana Superdome gets back in business tonight - on Monday Night Football, no less - a full $184 million worth of repairs, restorations and upgrades will be seen by millions of people, nearly 13 months after the venue had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
And a Lawrence sign company is among those who helped spiff the place up.
Star Signs & Graphics designed, fabricated and delivered 60 new signs for concessions areas at the spacious sports and convention venue, which served as a shelter for about 30,000 people after the deadly hurricane.
The company's share of the overhaul - a renovation to rescue what long has been an iconic venue for big-time events, from political conventions to the biggest championships in sports - is worth about $250,000, said Mike Vickers, Star Signs president.
The order came in about five weeks ago, mobilizing many of the company's 48 employees on a job that normally would take longer and not carry as much significance.
"It's the Superdome," Vickers said. "There was a little extra motivation to get it done, and it's gone really well."
Star Signs installers Brett Martin and Tom Kellogg have been in the Big Easy for the past three weeks, working to put up the handiwork crafted back home at the company's headquarters and sign shop at 801 E. Ninth St.
Star Signs' job: Put a local flavor on graphics for venues that draw their names from the festive New Orleans atmosphere, despite offering typical stadium fare. Some examples:
¢ St. Jack's Barbeque
¢ Jester's Spread - Nachos, hot dogs and other favorites
¢ King's table - Hot dogs, pretzels, nachos & much more!
¢ Royal Feast - Hot dogs, pretzels, nachos & much more!
¢ Parish Grill - Hamburgers, chicken tenders, french fries & much more!
But no respecting New Orleans venue could go without spirits. Star Signs stirs up interest with multicolor signs for Canal St. Cocktails, named for the busy passage on the edge of the French Quarter; and Flavors and Favors, which offers daiquiris.
"It's nice stuff," Vickers said. "It's pretty high end. They spent a lot of money, and they're doing it throughout the whole place."
Star Signs isn't done yet. The company still has a few Crescent Moon ("Heavenly Pizza") signs to install, once the company gets the word to do so. And there simply wasn't enough time for stadium owners to get everything ready.
Vickers figures there's another $1 million in sign business available at the Superdome during the next year, and he's hoping to be a big part of the ongoing restoration and improvement efforts.
Star Signs & Graphics
Star Signs & Graphics landed the contract for designing, creating and installing signs at concessions stands in the Louisiana Superdome, which has undergone a $184 million restoration and renovation leading up to tonight's NFL football game between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. Here are a few images - plans for the many of the signs, plus fabrication and completion of some of them - at the company's offices and shop at 801 E. Ninth St. in Lawrence.
"We should be doing a lot more work down there," Vickers said. "They barely got everything covered for (tonight's) game. They barely made it. The architect's been working almost around-the-clock for the past month or two.
"Obviously, if they're going to run concession stands, they had to get that done. Next comes all the directional signs. They'll probably do that between now and next season."
Until then, Vickers will be keeping an eye on the project, knowing that his company played a role in reinvigorating a building that had suffered seemingly irreparable damage. The Aug. 29, 2005, storm and its aftermath had left the structure with 70 percent of its roof failing, 4,000 toilets backed up and 3.8 million gallons of water to be pumped from the building and its garages.
About 30,000 people had taken temporary shelter in the Superdome, producing tales of despair that shocked people across the country.
Today, the Superdome will welcome 68,354 fans, with each and every seat bought by Saints season-ticket holders. U2 will perform before kickoff.
The entire season is sold out for the first time in the franchise's 40-year history, a sign that the community is ready to see what the team - and its signature venue - has to offer.
Vickers won't be there, but that doesn't mean he'll be out of touch.
"I'll be watching," Vickers said. "It'll be a lot of fun."