Can anything save the Silverdome?
This June, as preservationists lost one final temporary restraining order and the Navin Field portion of Tiger Stadium was finally demolished by the city of Detroit, few people were giving much thought to the fate of the nearby Pontiac Silverdome, which was also fighting for its 35-year-old life. And that is a problem for city and state leaders, who are still hoping to find a bidder for the property.
Unbeloved by fans and made expendable with the 2002 completion of Ford Field, the Silverdome has been up for sale since the NFL's Lions abandoned it, but each successive deal to redevelop the property has fallen through. The most recent plan, which would have seen Silver Stallion Development Corp. build a thoroughbred horse racing track and equestrian center on the site, would have netted the city $20 million, but the Nov. 1, 2008, closing date was postponed and never rescheduled due to the buyer's inability to prove that the requisite financing for the purchase and development was in place.
In March, Gov. Jennifer Granholm declared that the city of Pontiac was in financial crisis - the state projects that the city faces a $12 million deficit on its $54 million budget, while the city insists the deficit is "only" $7.1 million - and appointed Emergency Financial Manager Fred Leeb to clean up the mess. Leeb has made it clear that he regards a quick sale of the stadium as vital to the city's meeting its obligations, considering that the city has been spending about $1.5 million annually to maintain the structure of the Silverdome, which originally cost $56 million to build.
While Leeb has promised continued discussions with local and regional developers, he also announced, in July, that plans were being made to conduct a worldwide online auction if a buyer from in and around Oakland or Wayne counties could not be found. "The fund that has subsidized the Silverdome until this year has run out," he warned readers of the Oakland Press. "Any money being used to maintain the Silverdome is coming out of the general fund, which we cannot afford. We are out of money."