Silverdome sold off, for a steal

Steve Henn Nov 17, 2009

Silverdome sold off, for a steal

Steve Henn Nov 17, 2009


Kai Ryssdal: The Detroit Lions have one win and eight losses this year. Over the past two seasons they are 1-24. Dismal as that is, though, the team’s former home has suffered an even greater indignity.

TV ANNOUNCER: You’re watching the auction network.

Thirty-four years after taxpayers spent more than $55 million building the Pontiac Silverdome, city officials have sold the stadium to the highest bidder, as Marketplace’s Steve Henn reports.

STEVE HENN: How often do you get a chance to buy a stadium?

Marketing TAPE: Thanks to the city of Pontiac you have the opportunity to own this internationally-noted structure, its contents and the land surrounding it.

You might think that an 80,000-seat sport arena is out of your league. But yesterday the Silverdome sold for just over $500,000.

RAYMOUND SAUER: I’m still stunned.

Raymound “Skip” Sauer writes the Sports Economist blog. In today’s dollars he says that dome cost more than $200 million to build.

SAUER: That’s a lot of money to have gone into thin air.

Another bidder filed suit to stop the deal today.

But Andrew Zimbalist an economist at Smith College says when the Lions move to downtown Detroit, the city of Pontiac become the latest casualty in a sports arena arms race.

ANDREW ZIMBALIST: The tax laws as they have existed have encouraged cities to bid against each other.

And that’s left Pontiac — a small, depressed city with a yawning budget gap — stuck spending $1.5 million a year on upkeep for a massive stadium no one wanted to use.

In Washington, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

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