The Silverdome (in Pontiac, Michigan
) was the home of the Detroit Lions
for over 25 years (previously the Lions used the Tiger stadium
ballpark). Construction began on the Silverdome in 1973 and was completed in 1975. The dome was not only completed on time but on budget for what would seem like today an amazing deal: $55 million. Christ, today $55 million wouldn’t even pay the asphalt
to pave a modern stadium parking lot.
For over a decade the Silverdome was the pride of the Detroit megopolis
. It racked up a number of firsts:
- It was the first stadium in a northern state to host a Superbowl (Super Bowl XVI)
- The first World Cup soccer games ever to be played in a covered stadium was at the Silverdome (thanks to something called “turfgrass”, a portable real grass playing surface developed by Michigan State University). The Silverdome hosted USA vs. Switzerland, Romania vs. Switzerland, Sweden vs. Russia, and Brazil vs. Sweden.
- For a long time it held the record for largest seating capacity of any NFL stadiums: 80,311.
- It probably also held a record for being the loudest venue. When full and all fans were cheering away, the visiting team found they had to use silent snap counts because the players on the field couldn’t hear a thing.
The Silverdome’s Teflon
dome was initially held up by overpressure
. However a larger than normal snowstorm in 1985 caused part of the dome to collapse (snow in Michigan? Whodathunkit!
). The roof was repaired and reinforced with steel
In the ‘80s the Detroit Pistons
became the Silverdome’s newest tenant, sharing the stadium with the Lions. Between Lions and Pistons games, the Silverdome was a premier concert venue. It was all about Metal band
s, baby. Metal bands. And sometimes tractor pull
s. Really, the Silverdome was the Swiss Army knife
of A-class venue and exhibition space.
However, what seemed too cool for spit in the ‘70s became to look old and tired in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. Trends in stadium design began to shift away from mega cattle-pens-in-the-round. The emphasis shifted to stadiums that traded mega seating capacity for a seemingly more intimate, human scale. What stadium owners might lose on gross ticket sales made up on the (seeming) willingness of fans to pay higher ticket prices for more comfy seats, better concessions, and of course luxury box
es. Silverdome had none. No one conceived of these lucrative pieces of real-estate in the ‘70s.
Silverdome’s long slide from a civic show piece
to a local joke, worthy of only hosting wrestle fests and tractor pull
s began when the Pistons moved to a new stadium called The Palace of Auburn Hills
. The Palace of Auburn Hills opened its doors in 1988. Although it had only 1/3 of Silverdome’s seating capacity, it had all the latest appointments, including lucrative corporate boxes.
By the mid-‘90s the Lions became dissatisfied with their home. Their previous dome-mates the Pistons had great digs
. In 2002 the Lions left the Silverdome for a new field in the heart of Detroit called Ford Field