Entergy, Stadium Manager Investigating Blackout

Entergy Corp. and New Orleans Superdome manager SMG are focusing on fuses and circuit breakers that monitor the flow of electricity to the dome as they investigate the cause of a blackout during yesterday’s Super Bowl.

Entergy installed so-called switchgear equipment and replaced transformers and back-up feeder cables as it overhauled the stadium’s electrical systems to protect against blackouts, Michael Burns, a spokesman for the New Orleans-based utility owner, said in a phone interview today. After Entergy completed the work Dec. 21, the stadium held three major games without incident, Burns said.

“We’re going to be working to find out what caused the issue,” Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League, said at a press conference today. The power failure wasn’t caused by the halftime show and won’t prevent the league from returning to New Orleans for the title game, he said.

About half of the lights at the facility, which held 71,024 fans for the last NFL game of the season, went dark early in the third quarter of what is historically the most-watched television program in the U.S. every year. The failure halted play for 34 minutes.

Shortly after the Baltimore Ravens returned a kick-off for a touchdown to grab a 28-6 lead over the San Francisco 49ers, equipment monitoring the electrical load into the stadium sensed an “abnormality” and partially cut power to isolate the problem, Entergy and SMG said in a joint statement today.

Post-Katrina Spending

Nine Entergy workers were testing and monitoring the equipment with infrared sensor yesterday to ensure it wasn’t overheating or malfunctioning. “Some electrical anomaly occurred that we are still investigating,” Burns said.

Entergy is inspecting the equipment with its manufacturer, which Burns declined to name, and is “also working with SMG to determine what may have occurred on its end,” he added.

About $336 million has been spent on repairs to the stadium, including its electrical system, following extensive damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to documents on the Superdome’s website. The stadium was used as a shelter for thousands of people after the storm hit.

Eric Egan, an SMG spokesman for the Superdome, didn’t respond to phone calls and e-mails seeking comment. SMG is an affiliate of American Capital Ltd., according to its website, and also manages Soldier Field in Chicago and the Astrodome in Houston.

PG&E Blackout

PG&E Corp. spent about $1 million upgrading power lines running into San Francisco’s Candlestick Park after a December 2011 blackout during a nationally televised football game, Joe Molica, a spokesman for the San Francisco-based utility owner, said in a telephone interview.

The damage to the reputations of Entergy, which owns Louisiana’s largest utility, and the Superdome may be more costly than the actual repairs, Samuel Brothwell, senior utilities analyst for Bloomberg Industries, said in a phone interview.

“There’s an old saying: ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity’ unless you’re a utility, in which case you don’t want any,” Brothwell said. “You don’t want to be the utility blamed for a blackout during during the Super Bowl.”

Entergy declined 1.1 percent to $64.10 at the close in New York. American Capital, based in Bethesda, Maryland, fell 1.4 percent to $13.11.

The game was watched by an average of about 108.4 million viewers, CBS said in a statement today, citing Nielsen Holdings NV data. It was the third most-watched championship ever, following the prior two Super Bowls.

“The power outage was an unfortunate moment in what has been an otherwise shining Super Bowl week for the city of New Orleans,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu tweeted. “In the coming days, I expect a full after action report from all parties involved.”

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