Friday, August 26, 2005

Here Lies The The Pontiac Silverdome: 1975-2005

It hardly matters now, but the Lions' 30-year agreement with the Silverdome officially expired this month. Of course, the team long ago got out of that arrangement in order to move into Ford Field for the start of the 2002 season.

But I just thought it would be nice to remind you that it was 30 years ago this month that the Lions played their first game underneath the fiberglass, air-supported bubble roof at Opdyke and Featherstone. Actually, the second game they played there was under the roof. The first game, an exhibition against the Kansas City Chiefs, was played au natural, open-roofed, because the top wasn't ready in time. No joke.

In fact, back in '75, the Silverdome -- the name -- wasn't even a dream in anyone's head. The structure was dubbed Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium, which was soon shortened to PonMet.

It was state-of-the-art at the time, PonMet was, and by New Year's Eve of 1975 it was hosting an Elvis concert, a show in which The King, in all his girth, split his pants. Again I do not lie.

Anyhow, as you know, the Pistons were tenants from 1978-1988, and there were tractor pulls and monster truck shows and RV shows and anything else management could do to justify a stadium that was only used from August-April, and sporadically during those times.

The roof caved in a few times, displacing the Pistons, always during playoff time it seemed. People complained the 'Dome was cold and damp during the basketball season, which it absolutely was. The court was set up in the corner with a huge blue curtain hiding the rest of the cavernous stadium. It was, truthfully, a miserable place to watch NBA basketball. But the Pistons could jam 50,000 fans in there, if a bunch were willing to sit in the nose bleed sections, which were the seats you got by converting the free vouchers you could pick up at all the tire stores and dry cleaners and fast fry chicken joints in town.

I guess they're going to tear the 'Dome down -- at least that's what I hear. There really is no use for it any longer, and there hasn't been for years. I'll kind of miss seeing the big white bubble top driving north on I-75.

Rest in peace.

1 comment:

Ian C. said...

Greg, I never knew the first Lions game in the Silverdome was played 'au natural.' Very interesting factoid.

After reading this piece, I'm convinced a book needs to be written about this 30-year saga. Between all of the sporting events and concerts (some of them historic) and all of the politics involved in the Silverdome's existence (between the Lions and Pontiac, between the 'Dome and Pontiac, etc.), it seems like you could fill up a book quite well.

And I have yet to see a game in Ford Field, which I hope to rectify soon, but I saw plenty in the Silverdome and I don't think there was a bad seat in the place (for a football game - never mind basketball games and concerts). If Ford Field's a better place to watch a football game than the Silverdome, it must be the NFL's Shangri-La.