Monday, November 16, 2009

Stadium for a Fiver - The Pontiac Silverdome

Wow. $538,000 for the Pontiac Silverdome, that's daylight robbery. Surely the very land it sits on -- about 130 acres -- is worth more than $538,000. But that's what it sold for, less than 1% of what it was constructed for between 1973 and 1975.

Most Americans know the Silverdome as the former home of the NFL's hapless Detroit Lions, nearly everyone turned on their television every Thanksgiving and saw the stadium in all it's, err, glory? It isn't really much, just a basic dome in line with so many others scattered about North America: Indianapolis' Hoosier Dome, BC Place in Vancouver, and Minneapolis' Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. All have been routinely criticized for lacking character, like so much architecture from the 70's and 80's, it was build for function and not always for form. With that said, the Silverdome has done it's job and has hosted some great events: A Super Bowl in 1982, World Cup matches in 1994 with the aid of a raised field and transplanted grass pitch, and of course WrestleMania III, which the WWE claims had an attendance of 93,173, although some dispute that number and say the actually attendance was closer to 73,000.

But getting back to my point, there are houses three streets away from me sitting on less than half-an-acre of land that sell for more than the Siverdome did, I know the City of Pontiac is severely despressed financially -- to the point where Michigan's Governor basically stripped civic officials of all power -- but to sell so much land for so little money is insane.

The Silverdome seats 80,300 people, which I believe is good for 22nd largest in the United States. It's a massive stadium, but it also carries a massive bill, upkeep of the aging behemoth is reported to be around $1.5 million per annum, which goes a good way as to explaining why Pontiac was so eager to get shot of it, but still, wow.

If possible, and recalling a piece I did for Pitch Invasion, run by the brilliant Tom Dunmore, I would look into making the Silverdome a "green" venue, along the lines of the World Games Stadium in Taiwan, or St-Jakob Park in Basel, Switzerland. The roof of the cavernous venue is vast and several solar panels could be installed on it, possibly saving a bundle in electricity, and if the upkeep for the stadium is as high as it's said to be, you need to be saving every penny possible.

The owners, who have yet to be revealed, have expressed a desire to have the stadium play host to a soccer team, possibly a new Major League Soccer franchise. I wrote about that here. If this is true, I certainly expect a reduction in capacity, because there isn't an ice cube's chance in Hell that they'll sell out the Silverdome for Major League Soccer, not right now.

Hopefully the new owner can find some use for the stadium, it's a shame to see it -- and more importantly the land it occupies -- go to waste. Seeing it sit idle like it has makes me think of Dixie Square Mall, in Harvey, Illinois...and that's not a good thing.

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