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Place your bids: Silverdome goes on the block

Once host to the Super Bowl, Hulk Hogan and the Pope, the Silverdome has become an expensive liability for its hometown.

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By Aaron Smith, staff writer

The city of Pontiac put the Silverdome, once host to the Super Bowl, on the auction block.

NEW YORK ( -- The hard-hit city of Pontiac, Mich., is auctioning off the Silverdome, a stadium of more than 80,000 seats that once played host to the Super Bowl.

The Silverdome, the site of Super Bowl XVI in 1982 and the former home of the National Football League's Detroit Lions, went on the auction block on Tuesday. Bidding will continue until Nov. 12, according to real estate auction house Williams & Williams, based in Tulsa, Okla.

Sitting on 127 acres, the Silverdome was the biggest stadium in the NFL when it was built for $55.7 million back in 1975, the auction house said.

Amy Bates, senior vice president of marketing for Williams & Williams, said there is no minimum bid for the Silverdome, and she declined to estimate the value of the facility.

"Auctions are all about price discovery through competitive bidding," Bates said. "All of us will understand the value of the Pontiac Silverdome when the auction ends."

In its 35-year history, the stadium has played host to the World Cup in 1994 and WrestleMania III in 1987. That showdown between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant drew a record number of fans -- more than 90,000 -- for an indoor sporting event.

The stadium is also the former home of the Detroit Pistons of the National Basketball Association. In its heyday, it featured concerts by Madonna and Michael Jackson and an appearance by Pope John Paul II.

But since then, Michigan has fallen on hard times, and the Detroit area now has the highest unemployment rate in the country. The stadium has seen little use since the 2001-2002 NFL season. Fred Leeb, emergency financial manager for Pontiac, said the city has spent about $1.5 million in annual upkeep.

"The reason we're putting it up for auction is because the Detroit Lions moved out years ago, and since then it's only been used sporadically," Leeb said. "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 acknowledged that "demolition is a possibility."

But the city is willing to work with a buyer to give the Silverdome new life. "We established a very flexible zoning ordinance to allow people to do virtually anything that makes economic sense," Leeb said.

Mark Rosentraub, professor of sports management at the University of Michigan and an expert in stadium finance and construction, said the city of Pontiac faces a tough sell in trying to get a good price for the now-empty dome, considering the state of the Michigan economy.

"The Detroit or southeast Michigan market does not need the dome in its current uses," he said. "The population base is not expanding, and between The Palace in Auburn Hills, Ford Field and the Joe Lewis Arena [both in Detroit], anyone looking at it has to have an alternate use in mind for the facility or the land." To top of page

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