13 October 2009

For Sale: The Pontiac Silverdome

Story from Detroit Free Press

Time is running out to buy Michigan's largest vacant home.

The Pontiac Silverdome, home of the Detroit Lions from 1975 until 2002, will be sold next month to the highest bidder, no matter the bid, as the cash-strapped city looks to offload the $1.5-million annual upkeep costs at the empty facility.

Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams & Williams is conducting the auction and accepting sealed bids through 4 p.m. Nov. 12. After that, the city has the option of inviting the top five bidders back for a live auction Nov. 16. Would-be bidders can tour the facility by appointment and they must pony up a $250,000 deposit -- to show they are serious -- but there is no minimum bid.

"We are excited about the upcoming sale of the Silverdome and finding a new owner who will become a key member of our community," said Pontiac Emergency Financial Manager Fred Leeb, adding that the auction "illustrates our commitment to sell the stadium this year and convert an expense into a vibrant future development."

A $17.5-million plan to turn the Silverdome, which sits on
127 acres, into a racetrack, hotel and conference
center fell through last year.

The facility, which stands on 127 acres, has been used sporadically since 2002 when the Lions moved to Ford Field in downtown Detroit. Several efforts to redevelop it have fallen through.

A $17.5-million plan to turn the stadium into a horse racetrack, hotel and conference center fell through last year and it's unclear whether that option remains on the table.

"I just don't know," said Bloomfield Hills attorney H. Wallace Parker, who spearheaded that effort.

The iconic building dominates the skyline of Pontiac, visible for several miles. Its namesake roof is made of fiberglass and suspended by positive air pressure in the building. With more than 80,000 seats, the building hosted a Super Bowl, an NBA All-Star game, a papal mass and Wrestlemania III.

"It's a very important piece of property for Pontiac, but I think it's important for Oakland County as well," said Doug Smith, the county's director of economic development. "It sits right out there at the intersection of M-59 and I-75."

Battered by auto retrenchment and declining home values, Pontiac's finances are so weak that Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed Leeb to fix them. Leeb approved the auction after the county and Mayor Clarence Phillips couldn't agree on what to do with it.

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