Long before Gustav began his journey into the Gulf of Mexico, growing from tropical depression to hurricane, the anticipation of today's Saints opener in the Superdome already had been building into its own sort of perfect storm.

Expectations are as high as they've ever been in New Orleans, with new additions Jeremy Shockey, Jonathan Vilma and Sedrick Ellis joining old favorites such as Drew Brees, Marques Colston and Deuce McAllister. The Saints are opening their season at home for the first time in four years, and they are playing perhaps the most important opponent on the schedule, the division-rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It's hard to imagine anything could have intensified today's game, but Gustav did just that, forcing the city to evacuate last weekend before mercifully avoiding the type of devastating blow Hurricane Katrina dealt this region three years ago.

Now, with the populace returning home, this game will serve as New Orleans' loudest sigh of relief -- a "post-hurricane party in the Dome, now that everyone's back together," according to Saints owner/executive Rita Benson LeBlanc.

"I think being back in the Dome, I think it could be electric," said Saints linebacker Scott Fujita,

Tickets still available!

by Mike Triplett, The Times-Picayune September 05, 2008 11:08AM

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Superdome will be operating Sunday afternoon as if it's any other game day or at least that's the goal, according to Doug Thornton, the regional vice president of SMG, the company that manages the Superdome.

Thornton said fans won't notice any difference in the traffic or the parking or inside the stadium, with the only possible exception being some specialty food items like carving stations and po-boys and pastas that require a little extra prep time.

"Our goal is to have absolutely no change in the way this operation is run on game day," Thornton said. "We're going to be in great shape. And we're going to play a football game. That's the main thing."

Sunday at the Superdome: New Orleans Saints game is ON! Sunday at the Superdome: New Orleans Saints game is ON!

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