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Political Games at the Pontiac Silverdome?

The woes in the Michigan real-estate market were dramatically underscored yesterday when the Pontiac Silverdome, once home to the Detroit Lions football team, was sold at auction for $583,000. The stadium, which opened in 1975 and was home to the Lions until they returned to Detroit proper in 2002, cost $55.7 million to build.

Now, the situation has been complicated further because an Oakland County judge halted the sale shortly after an injunction was filed by a development company that claimed it wanted to buy the Silverdome for $17.5 million last year. The company, Silver Stallion Development Corp., also says it was also shut out of  yesterday's bidding and that its purchase agreement to buy the dome is still valid. The city, though, says the contract has expired and that the company failed to pony up $250,000 to join yesterday's bidding.

Looking at it now, I don't see how the city can't take the 583 grand.

I mean, I'd love to see the Silverdome become the $250-million entertainment complex that the Silver Stallion folks said they'd convert it into. After all, selling the Silverdome for a fraction of what it cost to build the place nearly 35 years ago represents a huge "L" for the city of Pontiac. And I think the stadium, which sits near key freeways in the richest county in the state, is really worth well more than that, so it seems clear the city is getting badly lowballed, gypped even.

On the other hand, the place is costing the city $1.5 million a year to maintain, and it's not generating any real tax revenue. Meanwhile, Pontiac is $103 million in the hole. I can't help but wonder why the group that says it wanted to buy the joint in 2008 ago didn't just drop the cash on the city and move in.

And even if, as the injunction charges, the black mayor of Pontiac was indeed racially biased against the civil-rights attorney who heads Silver Stallion, Pontiac is run by an state-appointed emergency financial manager now. The mayor doesn't have any power. So if you're Silver Stallion, why not pony up the $250,000, get in the bidding and scoop the place up for, say, $16 million less than what you originally offered? Or why not file an injunction before the auction if you think your original purchase contract is still valid?

In lieu of any of this, I'm left wondering whether this development company ever really had the money to make that $17.5 million deal, let alone the $250-million conversion. If I'm wrong and it does, I hope these developers somehow are allowed to buy the Silverdome for more, just because I know that place, though no longer a state-of-the-art facility, should still fetch more than half-million bucks.

But it seems like they're just blowing smoke. If so, like I said, I can't see how the city has any choice but to take the 5oo grand from the auction (and yes, the big "L" that goes with it). I just hope that, in the long run, the city can make it up if/when the Silverdome ever goes back on the local tax rolls. In a climate like ours, a place like Pontiac needs all the tax dollars it can get.

You think I'm right or wrong on this one? And why?

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