The icon: Doug Thornton.
The legacy: Doug Thornton is executive vice president of stadiums for SMG, the company that manages the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Smoothie King Center for the state. But that doesn’t tell it all. As the man responsible for running the Dome – the mammoth arena that has been host to Super Bowls, Essence Festivals, circuses, several Final Fours, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and the 1988 Republican Convention – Thornton not only keeps it tidy but also keeps the iconic stadium competitive so it can continue to snag major events. For most New Orleanians, the most important thing Thornton did was steer the $376 million rebuilding of the Dome after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina pummeled it. On reopening day — Sept. 25, 2006 — excited fans surrounded the stadium and surged inside to cheer as the Saints, playing their first home game since the storm, trounced the Atlanta Falcons, 23-3, in what has become known as the “Domecoming.” Calling the game “an even bigger event than we thought,” he said, “This is like a Super Bowl — a Super Bowl for locals.”
The artist: Michael McManus.
The quote: “One guy asked me why we wouldn’t just want to tear down the Dome because it harbors so many bad memories of the storm, but we had 30 years of good memories here before the hurricane. It could be a symbol for the rebuilding of New Orleans, something people could rally around.” — Doug Thornton, in a prophetic interview 11 days after Hurricane Katrina
Explore more of McManus’ work online at WhereYart.net and in person at the Where Y’Art gallery, 1901 Royal St.
- His real, never-used, name is J. Douglas Thornton.
- A Houston native who grew up in Shreveport, Thornton played touch football with, among others, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Ferguson, who went on to be professional football players.
- While playing quarterback for Woodlawn High School, Thornton tore a ligament in his knee in a game against Ouachita High.
- At McNeese State University, where Thornton played baseball and football, he re-injured his knee while rounding third base. After five operations, any hopes he might have had for a career as a professional athlete were over.
- He graduated from McNeese in 1980.
- Thornton, who was responsible for rebuilding the Superdome, received an award named for the man responsible for conceiving it and building it: the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award, which the Louisiana Sports Writers Association gave him in 2007.
By John Pope, contributing writer
Source: The Times-Picayune archives; staff research
More on 300 for 300:
#SAINTSNEWS #SAINTS #NOLA