By Jason Hanna
(CNN) — The cause of Sunday’s power outage at the Super Bowl in New Orleans has been traced to a newly installed device that was meant to protect Superdome equipment, utility company Entergy New Orleans announced Friday morning.
An electrical relay device triggered when it shouldn’t have, causing the roughly 35-minute partial electrical outage that interrupted the third quarter of the NFL title game between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, company representatives told city officials at a meeting.
The issue has been a huge concern for city officials, who’ve been anxious about the outage’s impact on the city’s potential to attract future big-ticket events.
Company CEO Charles Rice assured city council members that the faulty device has been removed. Although Entergy is still trying to determine why the device triggered, the dome’s electrical system is ready to go, and steps will be taken to ensure a malfunction doesn’t happen again, he said.
“Rest assured, the Superdome is fully functional,” Rice told the New Orleans City Council’s utility committee Friday morning.
The company that manages the dome, SMG, said it concurred with the finding, which Rice said came through Entergy’s own testing. But the explanation won’t end the issue for some officials, as Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson pressed Rice to allow an independent audit.
Rice didn’t commit, instead replying that a third-party inspector will be used if Entergy and SMG determine one is needed.
The device was part of Entergy’s 2011-2012 project to improve electrical reliability at the dome, Entergy official Dennis Dawsey told council members. Entergy replaced transformers and put in a switch gear, which is designed to cut some power to prevent a larger outage in the event of a problem.
The faulty relay device had been installed to protect Superdome equipment in the event of a cable failure between the switch gear and the stadium, the company said.
The relay device wasn’t put online until December 21. Between then and the Super Bowl, the device functioned properly during three major events — the New Orleans Bowl, a Saints-Panthers NFL game, and the Sugar Bowl — Entergy said.
Rice said the company would work closely with the device’s manufacturer to determine what caused the device to trigger when it shouldn’t have.
“We are going to do everything humanly possible (to ensure) we do not experience an event like this again,” Rice said.
An SMG official emphasized to the panel that the power failure had nothing to do with SMG’s recent efforts to replace the cables that feed electricity from Entergy’s connection points to the dome.
The Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, a state agency that oversees the Superdome, had approved spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace the feeder cables. The SMG official said Friday that the cables were replaced because they were 15 years old, and that SMG doesn’t “see any way (the cables) were involved in this.”
The electrical outage at the Superdome set off a storm of social media amusement among viewers and inspired advertising tweets with blackout twists.
Carmaker Audi took a swipe at its competitor, tweeting that it was sending “LED lights” over to the dome, which is officially named the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
But for the picturesque Super Bowl host city — perpetually concerned with its reputation, especially since Hurricane Katrina — the power failure broadcast to the world was a huge embarrassment.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu promised that night there would be answers soon.
Clarkson, pressing for a third-party examination of the cause, emphasized that the city intends to bid for the 2018 Super Bowl.
“We are in contention for 2018,” Clarkson said. “(An outside test) is clearly imperative … to defy the naysayers that could be arising around the country to say that we shouldn’t have this (Super Bowl).”