Boom went the dynamite, but, no, Michigan’s Silverdome just wouldn’t blow.
Sunday was demolition day for the outdated, dilapidated mausoleum of a stadium in a Detroit suburb that also bears the name of a dead automobile, Pontiac. Doom for the dome. But when the dust in Pontiac settled, the Silverdome was still standing there, like a hard-headed prizefighter unwilling to be knocked down.
For various reasons, America’s big, costly stadiums keep being replaced by bigger, costlier stadiums. Some are just plain old. Others are just poorly built. Sometimes, a wealthy owner of a team that plays games simply wants a larger playpen. So the “obsolete” place ends up being imploded, blown into a million atoms and particles like the planet Krypton, as was supposed to be the case Sunday morning with a stadium where Detroit’s players no longer play.
I spent several years living 10 minutes from this edifice, a half-hour’s drive or so from downtown Motor City. I spent quite a few Sundays and Thanksgiving Days there, watching the Detroit Lions play football on their way to not winning another championship. I saw Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers win a Super Bowl there. I saw Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons play basketball there. In late 1981, I went to a concert by the Rolling Stones there, figuring that Mick Jagger and his band mates were old dudes and might not perform much longer.
The Who, Elvis, Aerosmith, the Jacksons, Springsteen, Metallica and local material girl Madonna were just a few of the acts who entertained at that Michigan monolith after it opened for business in 1975. The stadium was host to a 1987 “Wrestlemania” event featuring Hulk Hogan that drew a crowd of more than 93,000. Even the appearance of incredible hulk Donald J. Trump at a “Wrestlemania” 20 years later in downtown Detroit did not attract that big an audience, although he probably would insist that it did.
Today, like so many American stadiums, the Silverdome is nothing but a hollow shell.
It became obsolete in 2002 when the NFL’s Lions moved their lair to Ford Field downtown. Tenants came and went, auctions were held, buyers were sought. A monster truck show, a boxing card and other attractions were brought in, mainly in vain. The dome was done. Its upkeep was expensive, its infrastructure was in need of upgrades and its hometown was financially strapped. Going, going, gone.
All that remained was to blow it up. After all, we love edifice wrecks. We love watching things blow up, as long as it’s preapproved and legal. Once this property is condemned, boom, push the plunger, set off the explosives.
In fact, it was just on November 20 when another mighty arena, the Georgia Dome, was blown to smithereens in Atlanta, being of no further use. A state-funded stadium opened in 1992 that cost an estimated $214 millionwas already a useless vestige of yesteryear. It was host to a couple of Super Bowls, a few NCAA Final Four basketball tournaments and several events of the 1996 Olympic Games, but already, by 2017, it was just a useless hunk of junk.
The Georgia Dome had structural issues. Its roof was weather-beaten and damaged. Furthermore, the owner of pro football’s Atlanta Falcons wanted his team to play outdoors, not indoors. He got his way, and on August 26 of this year, the $1.6 billion (yes, billion) Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened its expensive doors.
So many similar places have vanished before our very eyes — Texas Stadium, Riverfront Stadium (Cincinnati), Fulton County Stadium (Atlanta), the Kingdome (Seattle), Three Rivers Stadium (Pittsburgh), the Omni arena (also in Atlanta), all demolished or imploded, wiped off the face of the earth. A lot of structures are built to last, but some don’t seem to last very long. Atlanta seems to need a new stadium every other Thursday.
Others still stand like haunted houses — the Houston Astrodome, for instance — awaiting their fates. If those walls could talk, they’d say: “Use me! I’ll be a flea market, a fruit stand, a motocross course, a revival tent, anything you like! Please don’t implode me! Help!”
Taxpayers must sit there wondering how many hundreds of millions of dollars are necessary to erect a public stadium that the public can actually use,
The truth is, sports teams need (or claim they need) state-of-the-art facilities with modern technologies. Bigger is necessarily better. But then they abandon their old places of business like kings vacating old castles. They move out and move on. It is left up to somebody else to pay for the lights, the heat and the cleanup crew. An ultra-modern stadium sits idle like a decrepit shopping mall or steel mill.
Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Dodger Stadium and others keep going and going, while other stadiums apparently come stamped with expiration dates.
What’ll we implode next? The Alamo? Monticello? Mount Rushmore? Maybe somebody eventually will say, “Let’s blow this thing up and put up a brand new one!”
I sure did hate to see the good old Pontiac Silverdome go. I had a good laugh Sunday morning when it refused to go. Tough against all odds and obstacles, not unlike Detroit itself, the Silverdome probably stood there Saturday night on the eve of destruction girding for the worst. Then sang out defiantly the next day, “Hit me with your best shot.”
And if at first you don’t implode, try, try again.