The Times-Picayune is marking the tricentennial of New Orleans with its ongoing 300 for 300 project, running through 2018 and highlighting 300 people who have made New Orleans New Orleans, featuring original artwork commissioned by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune with Where Y’Art gallery. Today: Dave Dixon.
The icon: Dave Dixon.
The legacy: By trade, he was an antiques dealer. But Dave Dixon was first and foremost a visionary — and, conveniently, one heck of a salesman. His one and only product: New Orleans. He sold the NFL on bringing a team to New Orleans. He sold the state and its voters on building the Superdome to house that team. He sold Tulane University on the idea of hosting them until the Dome could be finished. And, in the process, he sold the world on the idea of New Orleans as a big-league city. The city’s skyline wouldn’t be the same without Dave Dixon — who is rightfully known as the father of the Superdome — and neither would Sundays in New Orleans.
The artist: Michael McManus, WhereYart.net.
The quote: “My father was a New Orleanian to his toenails. He always said it that way, and believe me he was. He loved this city so much and probably put 75-80 percent of the energy he had in his life into this state. He just loved New Orleans.” — Frank Dixon, in 2012
Explore more of Michael McManus’ work online at WhereYart.net and in person at the Where Y’Art gallery, 1901 Royal Street in the Marigny.
- Dixon got involved in the local sports scene in 1958, when Mayor Chep Morrison shared with him plans to attract a minor-league baseball team to the city. Dixon offered the idea that it might be easier to attract a football team from the then-fledgling NFL. “He said, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ I was shocked. Surprised,” Dixon said in 1990. “That’s how it got started,” he added, “and then I had a tiger by the tail and couldn’t let go.”
- “To show how naive I was, how foolishly optimistic, in 1962, we passed out season ticket pledge forms for 1963,” Dixon once said. “I still have about 50 of the pencils passed out, with the inscription ‘New Orleans Saints, 1963.'”
- The team was eventually awarded to the city in 1967, with Dixon enlisting legislative help from the state’s influential congressional delegation. They included House Majority Whip Hale Boggs and U.S. Sen. Russell Long, who steered an anti-trust exemption through Congress for the budding league in exchange for the awarding of a team to New Orleans.
- The awarding of the franchise was made on All Saints Day 1967, but before the team was named the Saints, Dixon made sure to clear it with a higher power: New Orleans Archbishop Philip M. Hannan. “He thought it was a good idea,” Dixon would later say. “He had an idea the team was going to need all the help it could get.”
- Dixon’s inspiration for the Superdome came while reading a book by famed architect Buckminster Fuller, who envisioned massive domes at the center of all major cities.
- The Superdome, which cost $134 million to build, has hosted seven Super Bowls, men’s and women’s Final Four basketball games, concerts, bowl games, circuses — and a 1987 visit by Pope John Paul II.
- In 2016, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
- In 2012, the street running between the Superdome and the Smoothie King Center was renamed Dave Dixon Drive.