NEW ORLEANS — When the Louisiana Superdome's manager surveys the stadium's latest renovation project, he says he finds himself thinking more about his city's hopeful future than its troubled recent past.

SMG vice president Doug Thornton, whose company runs the state-owned stadium, says a $336 million, multiphase transformation during six years since Hurricane Katrina has the dome ready to host and bid for major national events.

The latest improvements cost $50 million and include new, field-level stands with 24,500 seats and exclusive lounges.

Enough of the work has been completed in the last five months for the stadium to reopen for the Essence music festival this weekend. The dome is scheduled to host the next BCS national championship and NCAA men's basketball Final Four, along with the Super Bowl in 2013.