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November 17, 2009
 

Will Footy Return to the Pontiac Silverdome?

In a sign of the times, the Pontiac Silverdome – located 20 miles north of Detroit – has sold for a mere $583,000 according to the Detroit Free Press. The good news, however, is that the purchasers intend to use the 80,000-seat stadium for MLS and WPSL teams!

Except, of course, there have been absolutely no actual discussions with the MLS or WPS just yet. And the sale looks like it’ll be held up in court for a while.  But, at least someone wants to turn the Silverdome into a home for soccer, which is better than what usually happens to abandoned stadiums in Michigan.

Of course, the Silverdome is different, a gigantic indoor dome with faulty temperature control and… did I mention that it is gigantic?? Growing up in Michigan, my personal favorite Silverdome memory was seeing a Green Bay Packers fan getting pummeled in the aisle by Lions fans, who each managed to throw punches while keeping their beers upright.  Ahh…. sweet, sweet memories!

Indoor grass!

Indoor grass!

Yes, the Silverdome was built in 1975 at a cost of $56 million. It was the former home of the Lions before they moved to downtown Detroit, once hosted a Super Bowl (on a particularly frigid day), was briefly the home of the Detroit Pistons when the Palace was being built, and even hosted rock concerts, including Led Zeppelin in 1977, and the Who with the Clash and Eddie Money (!!) in 1982. It still stands as a monument to the abysmal era of large, characterless, multi-purpose indoor stadiums.  And yet, it somehow has a little bit of charm and character, if nothing else because of its history.

Football-related musings after the hop…

Most importantly for us here at UF, the Silverdome was also the first indoor venue to host World Cup matches thanks to specially designed turf from Michigan State University’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. The stadium was famously the site of Eric Wynalda’s free kick against Switzerland, which helped the US Men’s Team advance to the knockout stages (when they were promptly beaten by eventual champions Brazil)….

Also, the Silverdome was the home of the NASL’s Detroit Express in the late 70s and early 80s.  The Express were owned by the legendary English football pundit Jimmy Hill and, in 1978-79, Trevor Francis was loaned from Birmingham City and scored an impressive 39 goals in 38 games.

1978 Detroit Express - Trevor Francis is in the front row 4th from right (photo: Getty)

1978-79 Detroit Express – Trevor Francis is in the front row 4th from right (photo: Getty)

As for today, it may still be quite unlikely that an MLS or even WPS team will ever play in the Silverdome.  Not to mention the fact that the stadium is incredibly cavernous and would be completely ill-suited for a league that is lucky to draw 15-20,000 to matches.

The good news is that someone is still thinking soccer rather than just scrap metal.

Or, as Precious Roy suggested, the Silverdome could host rec soccer games… Imagine the marketing ploy: “Take a free kick from the same spot Eric Wynalda scored from against Switzerland!”

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