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Silverdome auction ends today - maybe

If you want to buy the former home of the Detroit Lions, you'd better move fast. The city of Pontiac could announce the top bidder by Friday.

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By Aaron Smith, CNNMoney.com staff writer

detroit_silverdome.03.jpg
The bidding deadline approaches for the Silverdome in hard-hit Pontiac.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The Silverdome is going, going, going ... and soon it will be gone.

The hard-hit city of Pontiac, Mich. is nearly finished accepting bids for the Silverdome, an 80,000-seat stadium on a 127-acre site. The deadline for bids is 4 p.m. EST Thursday, according to Williams & Williams, the Tulsa, Okla.-based auctioneer.

Amy Bates, vice president of marketing at Williams & Williams, said the city will announce the winning bidder on Friday, or will continue the process with an in-house auction if the top bids have a narrow spread.

"The city has the right to accept the high bid today, or can choose to have up to five of the sealed bidders come in to participate in a live outcry auction in Pontiac," she said.

The city of Pontiac announced in early October that it was placing the Silverdome on the block, as the stadium has seen little use since 2002 and costs $1.5 million in annual upkeep. There is no minimum bid for this auction, though it does require a deposit of $250,000, which would be reimbursed once the process is completed, said Bates.

Williams & Williams declined to provide details about the bidding.

"We're in the middle of the auction, so we're providing no information about the number of people who have called," said Bates. "We did extensive global marketing and we're very pleased with the response to the marketing and the interest in the property."

The Silverdome was the biggest stadium in the National Football League when it was built in 1975 for $55.7 million. As the former home of the NFL's Detroit Lions and the National Basketball Association's Detroit Pistons, the stadium has a rich sports history, playing host to Super Bowl XVI in 1982 and the World Cup in 1994.

At its zenith in 1987, the stadium drew a record number of indoor fans for WrestleMania III, when 93,000 people showed up to watch Hulk Hogan body-slam Andre the Giant.

That same year, Pope John Paul II held Mass at the stadium. In its time, the Silverdome has also served as a concert venue for pop luminaries Michael Jackson, Madonna and Elvis Presley.

Pontiac was a core player in Michigan's once-thriving automobile manufacturing industry. But hard times have come to the city, which is suffering budget shortfalls and high unemployment, like close-by Detroit and other cities throughout Michigan.

General Motors announced plans earlier this year to close a truck plant in Pontiac that employed more than 1,400 workers. The state of Michigan was recently listed by the Pew Center, a research organization, as one of the top 10 most fiscally troubled states. Michigan's statewide unemployment rate of 15.3% is the highest in the country.

Fred Leeb, emergency financial manager for Pontiac, did not immediately return a phone message to the city offices, which are closed Thursday and Friday.

But in an October interview, Leeb said the Silverdome was being auctioned "because the Detroit Lions moved out years ago, and since then it's only been used sporadically. So we want to convert a major premier asset of the city -- convert it from something that's been languishing into a new, vibrant marquee asset of the community."

Leeb also said the city "established a very flexible zoning ordinance to allow people to do virtually anything that makes economic sense." He acknowledged that "demolition is a possibility." To top of page

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