The Pontiac Silverdome’s Final Moments

In the year 2016, the Pontiac Silverdome will meet the wrecking ball and take its last breath. I am quite aware that stadiums cannot breathe. Can you imagine a stadium snoring?

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The Silverdome Stadium is quite the historical landmark, full of decades of collected history. From Bob Seger to Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones to Elvis and even the Pope – so many famous or influential people have graced this stadium with their words or presence. For a few years now, the stadium has sat completely vacant and falling into a state of disrepair. Now, while the stadium sits in its current dilapidated state, the decision has been made to bring it to the ground. From monster trucks to body slams, if these walls could talk, we could probably sit for hours while this stadium told tales of the lives it has seen lived within it. The 1994 World Cup, Super Bowl XVI, Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (Wrestlemania III.) In 2016, this stadium will meet nearly the same fate of Andre the Giant, when the wrecking ball slams it to the ground. Some of the most fun moments through my time as a photographer were – oddly enough – spent here. I had only visited a few times to photograph this wonderful place, but each time was a fun and amazing day. Walking through the quiet, echoing corridors circling the stadium, I could imagine the lives carried out, as if I were looking back in time. Knowing that world records had been broken right there in front of me, or that I was sitting where Led Zeppelin played their record-breaking show; it was an incredible feeling. I got lost in my own mind pondering the maze of history for hours here. Seeing the stadium in such a decayed state was heartbreaking; all the while, still beautifully surreal.

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I think we all should take just a moment to remember the memories shared within this stadium, whether it be before or after its abandonment. In my personal opinion, the place would make one epic skatepark, but I don’t think the developer will budge on decisions. At a price tag of $29 million, it simply did not appeal to buyers, and the current owner has flipped. Come 2016, the Silverdome will come crashing down with all the memories, fading away into a rolling cloud of dust and tumbling concrete. I will never forget experiencing and photographing such a brilliant vacant space full of so many memories.

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As each 15,000-pound cable whipped down through seat after seat, down went the massive roof of Pontiac’s Silverdome stadium. These huge steel ropes went swinging through the stadium, slicing through the stands, causing destruction with the force of a bomb to butterfly wings, a hot knife through soft butter, decimating each concrete wall like it was nothing, knocking out entire sections of stairs and bending metal like a child angry at their Play-Doh. We could see where these had cut through, as they had created a straight line uninterrupted in even the slightest bit by any obstacle standing in their path.

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The idea of a grand stadium for Michigan was proposed in 1966, with urban planner Don Davidson acting as partial designer and architect on the project. The Pontiac Silverdome Stadium was built for $55.7 million dollars, completed and opened in 1975. Architects O’Dell, Hewlett and Luckenbach had acted as the dome’s main architects, fashioning the design after the Ancient Roman Colosseum. In 2009, the stadium was sold at auction for $583,000. This exhibits quite a great financial shift in the area’s economy, heavily showcasing how much has changed.

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Nearly 1.5 million cubic yards of earth were moved during the construction of this huge stadium, while 1,700 tons of structural steel held the enormous structure together. Overhead, covering the entire stadium was a dome; a 10-acre Teflon-coated fiberglass roof to encase what would come to be a central stadium for Super Bowls, concerts, events, hey maybe even the Pope would have graced the seats of this stadium. Oh yeah, he did.

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With 80,000 seats rounding the stadium’s sides, the Silverdome was quite a large and impressive stadium to stand atop and just marvel at. Of these 80,000 seats, English rock band Led Zeppelin broke a record, when on April 30, 1977 ticket sales hit a record high and the band played in front of 76,229 fans. Following closely behind these numbers, The Who performed, holding the very first concert inside this stadium during the year of 1975, playing for 75,962 fans. Among all other musically themed events to take place within the dome’s walls, in 1994, Pink Floyd had performed “Dark Side of The Moon” in its entirety for the first time since 1975, and following shortly after, The Rolling Stones welcomed their new album “Voodoo Lounge,” bringing the tour to The Silverdome in 1994.

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As I traversed the building, curved corridors eventually led me directly into a former dining hall. The hall appeared to have once been a very beautiful and elegant space to enjoy a meal, while at the same time receiving an amazing view of the current game or show below. Large glass windows stand from floor to ceiling across one end to the other, from bar to bar. From these windows, the entire stadium grounds outside are visible, and where some windows have been shattered, nature begins to welcome itself in for a drink. At the base of many of these glass panels, where water damage has invited its way into the carpet, a brand new, bright green carpet of moss has begun a natural installation. Where condiments sit atop shelves, a jungle of green begins to consume them from the daily sun welcomed in through the massive glass panes. As you wander past tables, the entire room smells of water damage, while the stadium view remains as beautiful as ever. It was like looking off into the apocalypse.

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While a mossy carpet sat at my feet, I stared through an open panel, welcoming the cold winter breeze to my face, chilling my skin as I study the destruction below. Such a huge space, once filled with so much energy now sits an open shell, victim to the elements. Wires hang from balcony tiers, windows remain shattered, some fogged over with a grime and residue from dripping water, while old scoreboards and electronic panels sit fallen in the stands, crashing about as gusts of wind flutter into and out of the stadium.

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We traveled down to center field, where I found myself taken away by such a large-scale destruction surrounding me in each and every way. I could only imagine the feeling of being surrounded by 80,000 screaming fans, all eyes on you. The silence was so great; you could almost hear the screaming of fans in the howling and whistling of each strong wind. I truly felt that I was lost in a reality shift, thrown into a life after people. I paced the small remaining pieces of AstroTurf thinking about how many famous and important people had once walked the same space that I am, and in how drastically different of a light. The large crowds would cheer and heaters would buzz, helping to heat the dome while the snow would melt away, but without a working system to generate heat, snow and ice piled up year after year until January of 2013 when the dome had finally come down.

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As I found myself balancing at the tip-top edge of this stadium’s roof, I looked out across the skyline, and though I knew there was life outside these walls, the world felt quiet and empty. I was on top of an empty world.

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2 thoughts on “The Pontiac Silverdome’s Final Moments

  1. It’s been very regrettable for me to see the sad ending to the Silverdome. My first concert in my life was the Seger show at the Silverdome. Just sitting on th field and looking up at the roof as the day turned to night was a surreal experience. Hometown Seger at his best, before he sold out and became the country star (by today’s standards) that brought us Night Moves, Still the Same, You’ll Accompany Me, and that incredible rocker, Shame on the Moon (sarcasm is free). My favorite memory of the Silverdome was attending the Led Zeppelin show, where tickets were an unheard of $25 per if I recall correctly. From having to stand in line for hours, buying four tickets, and exchanging two with two young blondes who had driven from California and wouldn’t have gotten tickets if not for our successful “negotiation.” That concert will always be meaningful as I attended with my best friend, who would pass away at the age of 18 in 1979. But in my mind, when I think of the Silverdome, we’re there and he’s alive at least for the moment. My final concert there was the Pink Floyd show where we bought tickets at Cobo and, thanks to my handband putting me fourth in line for tickets, we were in the 13th row, A local lady from a rock station asked our thoughts moments before the tickets were on sale. She asked if I had seen Floyd before and, as I told her and the radio audience, “seeing Pink Floyd wasn’t just a concert, it was an experience.” So there you have it. As it’s continued to decay. I’ve never even looked at what remained. It’s best left to my mind.

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