In the middle of collapsed roofs, flooded buildings and lingering power outages that shuttered local businesses for 10 months at least, the New Orleans Saints touched down in the Superdome for their first game back since Katrina. The Saints won 22-3 over the Atlanta Falcons that Monday night, and the victory came in many more ways than just the final score of the game.
"It was so uplifting for our business and everything surrounding our restaurant, as well," said Wildmon, whose restaurant sits just across the street from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. During the hurricane and recovery, the state police turned the restaurant into their temporary headquarters.
"We weren't even able to begin to recover and rebuild until several months after the storm," said Wildmon. "When we finally did, the building permit process took months because all of the local businesses were going through the same thing."
Meanwhile, the Saints—already an institution in the city—did even more to endear themselves to the shellshocked citizens. Displaced by Katrina, the team reeled from a grim 3-13 record in the 2005 season that set them up for an impressive 2006, where they came a game shy of going to the Super Bowl. That disappointment didn't stop members of the organization from channeling resources and energy into rebuilding the city.
"When the Saints returned, we got a huge shot in the arm," said Wildmon, who stated that her revenue numbers nearly tripled during that first football season. "We have been around for 23 years, but the Saints' impact has especially been felt in the last decade. The new life to our city stems back to the New Orleans Saints."
Local business operator Randy Dobbs also saw the restaurant he ran, a Bourbon Street burger joint named Krystal, benefit from the Saints. "Their influence on the city is infectious," said Dobbs, who ended up giving back to the Saints when he bought season tickets for the return year to the Superdome.
The rubble left behind by Katrina helped provide grist for the Saints' own revival, which culminated in a first-ever Super Bowl win more than four years later, when the team defeated the Indianapolis Colts.