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Silverdome sells for ... less than a house

Unidentified Toronto-based real estate company buys Pontiac stadium for $583,000 - a fraction of the $55.7 million it cost to build.

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By Aaron Smith, CNNMoney.com staff writer

detroit_silverdome.03.jpg
The winning Canadian bidders plan to turn the Silverdome into a soccer-dome.
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- An unidentified Canadian real estate company was the winning bidder for the Silverdome, snatching it up for a mere fraction of its original value.

A Toronto-based family-owned company bid $583,000 for the under-used stadium on Monday, which is currently owned by the City of Pontiac, Mich., according to auctioneer Williams & Williams.

The company plans to refurbish the Silverdome into a stadium for men's Major League Soccer and women's professional soccer teams, said the auctioneer. While the stadium was the former home of the National Football League's Detroit Lions, it also played host to some of the World Cup games in 1994. Brazil's victory over Italy occurred elsewhere, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

The auctioneer Williams & Williams, based in Tulsa, Okla., said it will not identify the buyer "until the final details are worked out and the sale closes."

"The Silverdome will now be in the hands of professionals who can devote their time to transform this high-profile property into a vital asset instead of enabling it to continue to languish as an empty facility," said Fred Leeb, the emergency financial planner for Pontiac, in a press release.

The sale of the Silverdome takes a large financial burden off the hard-hit city of Pontiac, which has fallen on hard times, with budget shortfalls and high unemployment. Earlier this year, GM announced it would close a truck plant, taking about 1,400 jobs from the city.

As a result, Leeb said, Pontiac could ill afford to continue paying $1.5 million in annual upkeep for the stadium. With a private owner, the property "will go back on the tax rolls," he explained.

The 80,000-seat Silverdome was the biggest stadium in the National Football League when it was built in 1975 for $55.7 million. The stadium, which sits on a 127-acre plot, is also the former home of the National Basketball Association's Detroit Pistons.

The stadium reached its football zenith in 1982 as the site of Super Bowl XVI, when San Francisco's 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Silverdome has also served as a music venue for some of the hottest acts in show business, including Michael Jackson, Madonna and Elvis. Another high profile visitor, Pope John Paul II, once delivered Mass from the field.

But the Silverdome's biggest event was Wrestle Mania III in 1987, when 93,000 fans packed into the stadium to watch Hulk Hogan body-slam Andre the Giant. That was the biggest turnout ever for an indoor sports event.

Despite its rich history, the stadium has seen little use since 2002, when the Lions concluded their last season there.

"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 city," said Leeb, in an October interview. To top of page

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