Silverdome sells for dirt cheap

It’s a good time to buy real estate – and sports arenas!

An Aerial view of the Silverdome.  From Wikimedia Commons.

An Aerial view of the Silverdome. From Wikimedia Commons.

The Pontiac Silverdome, located in Pontiac (duh) Michigan, just outside of Detroit, has sold for a cool $583,000.  An entire sports arena, for between the cost of two and three average homes in America – that’s getting some big-time real estate on the cheap.  One wonders if the new owners will ever need mortgage loan modification.  It was bid on at auction by a private Canadian Real Estate firm out of Toronto, whose name isn’t available presently. They delivered the winning bid, but the sale isn’t final yet.  According to an article from the Detroit Free Press (See:, it was costing the city of Pontiac about three times that much just to maintain the place per year, and the Detroit area isn’t exactly the land of milk and honey lately.

The former loud and proud home of Detroit Sports

A local college professor and high school sports star, C. Don Davidson, was the lynch pin.  He had grown up in the Detroit area and returned to the Detroit area in 1965, surprised to see the Pontiac area having declined since his absence.  He thought it would be a dandy idea to build a stadium for the Lions.

In 1966, he was hired by the University of Detroit in the architectural department.  (He held a Masters in Urban Planning and Architecture, and previously had helped design Jacksonville International Airport.)  His big project was an urban renewal of Pontiac, including a sports stadium.  He began with talks with William Clay Ford, owner of the Lions for a move.  By 1970, Pontiac was approved as the site for a new stadium, and he was hired as chief project designer by O’Dell, Hewlett and Luckenbach, an architectural firm.  The stadium was completed in 1975 – at a cost of almost $56 million – as the new home of the Detroit Lions.  They had previously been sharing Tiger Stadium with the Detroit Tigers, as was common even back then for professional football teams, and by fall 1975, the Lions’ new home was open for business as Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium.

Why “Silverdome?”

The top of the stadium was made of fiberglass coated with Teflon, which is white to the naked eye, but silver with reflection from the sun.  The roof was entirely supported by air pressure within the stadium.

From the ’70s until recently

In 1978, the Detroit Pistons moved in, and shared the building with the Lions until 1988.  It was the largest (it seats over 93,000; 80,000 for football) and loudest stadium in the NFL until 1997, and it’s still the third-largest stadium in the U.S.  (FedEx Field and Cowboy Stadium are second and first, respectively.)  The Lions moved out in 2001 to Ford Field.  It was largely empty afterward, though the parking lot was used as a drive-in cinema from ’03 to ’06.

The Present

The Silverdome has been host to many events, including WrestleMania III, the sporting event with the largest attendance ever (the record still stands). It’s also been host to legions of concerts – you name the huge band, they’ve played there.   By October 2009, the city of Pontiac put it up for auction.  The new owners, who will have a very reasonable mortgage on a HUGE building, plan to use it to host Major League Soccer games.  Granted, they paid more than a few payday loans, but they got an incredible deal.

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