Pontiac — The explosives are in place and security is on guard at the Pontiac Silverdome.
In a matter of 10 to 12 seconds Sunday morning, the once mighty professional venue will meet its fate: a highly anticipated implosion will bring down the upper ring of the iconic 400,000-square-foot structure.
It wasn’t the first demolition method considered, but it’s the safer option, said Richard Adamo, president of Detroit-based Adamo Group, hired to do the demolition. The implosion — scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Sunday (Dec. 10 is the weather makeup date) — will break metal beams at the perimeter of the stadium that were once used to keep the roof inflated.
“The reason we’re doing that is basically shooting the top ring to bring it down to a safer elevation,” Adamo said. “Initially, our plan was to demolish in sections conventionally with big machines. After evaluating the safety aspect, we elected to use this method. In one shot and it will all come down instead of cutting it like a pie. ... From the ground, everything will be way up above you. If you can avoid it, why not avoid it.”
The method is similar to the one Adamo Group used Nov. 20 when it demolished the iconic Georgia Dome in Atlanta. That was a total demolition that took about 12 seconds.
The implosion Sunday will be the first phase of a yearlong demolition of the former domed home of the Detroit Lions from 1975 to 2002. The Pistons played there, too, from 1978-88.
The building opened in 1975 and cost taxpayers $55.7 million. It has a notable past with appearances from Elvis on New Year’s Eve 1975 and Pope John Paul II in 1987. Also in 1987, it was the site of the largest recorded attendance for a live indoor sporting event at the time when WrestleMania III attracted a crowd of 93,173. In 1994, it famously hosted indoor matches for the World Cup.
“There were a lot of great times there,” said Crystal Williams, a publicity coordinator for the demolition. “People remember all the fun they had there.”
The Pontiac Silverdome is seen from the air in 1975, the year it opened. Home to the Detroit Lions for 26 years, the massive stadium also hosted many other sports events, concerts, a pope's visit, Wrestlemania III, monster trucks and other entertainment. Associated PressBuy Photo The last panel is waiting to be installed in the Silverdome roof on October 2, 1975. With a seating capacity of 82,000, it was the largest stadium in the National football League. Its signature feature was a fiberglass fabric roof, held up by air pressure. Gary Porter, The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo Detroit rocker Bob Seger performs at the Silverdome on June 27, 1976. For decades it was the largest performance venue in Metro Detroit. David Kryszak, The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo Led Zeppelin, with lead singer Robert Palmer, perform at the Silverdome on April 30, 1977. The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo Billy Sims, star running back for the Detroit Lions from 1980-84, makes an appearance in uniform outside the Pontiac Silverdome. The Detroit News archives A roof camera shows the football field during a Lions game on Nov. 7, 1981. Associated PressBuy Photo The Silverdome is packed for a Rolling Stones concert on November 30, 1981. The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo On January 24, 1982, the Silverdome hosted Super Bowl XVI, between the San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo Cincinnati Bengals fans live it up in the stands for Super Bowl XVI. The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh is carried off the field by his players after his team wins Super Bowl XVI, the first of the 49ers' five championships, on January 24, 1982 at the Silverdome. The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo Then Vice-President George Bush holds a football after 49ers beat the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI. His motorcade and bad weather contributed to the massive traffic jam leading to the Silverdome on January 24, 1982. The Detroit News archiveBuy Photo Trash is pushed to the aisles as the clean-up crew gets to work after Super Bowl XVI on January 25, 1982. Edwin Lombardo, The Detroit News The Pistons played at the Silverdome from 1978 to 1988. They hosted the Celtics on Jan. 29, 1985, setting a new record for the largest crowd to watch a regular NBA game: 61,983. Associated PressBuy Photo The roof of the 10-year-old Silverdome collapsed under the weight of an overnight snowfall on March 5,1985. It's seen here a week later. The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo At least seven holes were torn in the fiberglass-and-Teflon roof, warping the wooden basketball floor and sending concrete from the upper deck smashing into several plastic seats. James Varon, The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo Three Lions players -- James Jones, Gary Danielson and Eric Hipple -- were practicing when wet snow tore through the roof. No injuries were reported. The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo A new roof was in place by May 30, 1985. Bill Boaschenstein, president and CEO of Owens-Corning Fiberglas, signs a vent cap as workers and wives watch. The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo Workers hoist a flag atop the new Silverdome roof on May 30, 1985. The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo Andre the Giant charges Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III on Sunday, March 29, 1987, at the Silverdome. It's considered one of the most famous wrestling matches of all time. The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo Bill Jack Haynes gives Hercules Hernandez a lift at the Silverdome during WrestleMania III on March 29, 1987. The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo Motown legend Aretha Franklin sings the national anthem at the beginning of WrestleMania III. Traffic was so bad getting to the Silverdome, she arrived just on time, with no time for a sound check. Aretha Franklin headlined a celebrity roster that also included Bob Uecker and Mary Hart. David Coates, The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo Madonna brings the Who's That Girl World Tour to the Silverdome, August 7, 1987. James Varon, The Detroit NewsBuy Photo The faithful fill the Silverdome on September 19, 1987, for the visit of Pope John Paul II. The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo Chalices cover a table during the pope's mass in 1987. Nearly 400 priests and deacons took them into the stands to distribute communion. The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo A choir sings during the pope's appearance at the Silverdome on September 20, 1987. Steve Haines, The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo Pope John Paul II delivers his homily at the "Mass for the Faithful of Detroit" at the Silverdome on September 19, 1987. Steve Haines, The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo During the NFL players strike in 1987, quarterback Chuck Long and other Detroit Lions picketed as replacement players practiced inside. Steve Haines, The Detroit News archives There were plenty of empty seats at the Detroit Lions' game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 4, 1987. United Press InternationalBuy Photo Mick Jagger, left, and Keith Richards perform as the Rolling Stones make a tour stop at the Silverdome on December 8, 1989. The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo It's a pileup of Supercross bikes and racers at the Silverdome, date unknown. The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo The Pontiac Silverdome is seen from above in 1990. The Detroit News Roof washers work atop the Silverdome on Oct. 23, 1991. Associated Press Blocks of artificial grass are brought in for a World Cup soccer match in June 1993. Associated Press Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders tries to outrun Minnesota Vikings defenders Corey Fuller, Ed McDaniel and Dixon Edwards during an October 25, 1998 game at the Silverdome. The Vikings beat the Lions 34-13. Jeff Kowalsky, AFP/Getty ImagesBuy Photo The Lions play a Monday Night Football game against the St. Louis Rams at the Pontiac Silverdome on Oct. 8, 2001. The Lions' last game in the Silverdome was the following year. After the Lions moved to Ford Field, the Silverdome struggled to stay viable. Alan Lessig, The Detroit NewsBuy Photo President George W. Bush greets supporters at the Silverdome during a re-election campaign stop on November 3, 2004. Charles V. Tines, The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo A line of speed skaters skirts the inside wall during the Roll in the Silverdome event on January 22, 2004. Brandy Baker, The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo On October 5, 2005, a giant inflatable monster truck advertises a monster truck event happening at the Silverdome. Brandy Baker, The Detroit NewsBuy Photo The last major event at the Pontiac Silverdome was the Snooper Bowl on February 4, 2006, featuring the Snoop Dogg All-Stars, a youth football team from California coached by Rapper Snoop Dogg, playing an all-star team from the Detroit Police Athletic League. Charles V. Tines, The Detroit News archives Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws passes to kids before the start of Snooper Bowl II at the Silverdome on February 4, 2006. The Silverdome would close in 2006, was sold in 2009, reopened for a few events in 2010 and close again in 2013. David Guralnick, Detroit News Moviegoers sit in their vehicles and watch the movie "How To Train Your Dragon" during opening night at the Sliverdome Drive-In, April 23, 2010 in Pontiac. Bryan Mitchell, Special to The Detroit NewsBuy Photo Chris Hamm, left, and Shayne Taylor of Vidosh North LLC move sod into place on the floor of the Silverdome for the upcoming soccer game between AC Milan and Panathinaikos on July 17, 2010. Daniel Mears, The Detroit NewsBuy Photo Viscount Pools, Spas, Billiards partner Kevin Zacharski of Shelby Twp. talks to visitors at the Michigan Home & Garden Show at the Silverdome on March 12, 2011 about the Vienna 90, a seven-person hot tub. Todd McInturf , Todd McInturf / The Detroit NewsBuy Photo The ISOC Amsoil Championship Snowcross Series comes to the Silverdome on February 10, 2012. Daniel Mears, The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo NFL Hall of Fame Detroit Lions super fan Ron "Crackman" Crachiola overlooks the littered and flooded field at the Pontiac Silverdome on May 12, 2014, prior to RJM Auctions' sale of the contents. A winter storm destroyed the roof again in 2013. Daniel Mears, Daniel Mears / The Detroit NewsBuy Photo On May 24, 2014, the Pontiac Silverdome's ramp from the field to the area under the stands is flooded and debris from the roof litters the stadium. Daniel Mears, The Detroit News archivesBuy Photo What remains of the Silverdome is seen in an aerial view in October 2017. On Sunday, December 3, 2017, an implosion will start the first phase in a yearlong demolition of the 400,000-square-foot stadium of memories. Todd McInturf, The Detroit News
But the nearly 130-acre site fell into disrepair after the Lions left for Ford Field in 2002. It lost its inflatable dome after a snowstorm and essentially functioned as the world’s largest bird bath.
Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman and city officials have long been working with Triple Investment Group, owners of the site since 2009, to clear the stadium. Officials in 2015 announced demolition plans after the investment group failed to sell the site for $30 million.
Without the blighted structure, the 127 acres of land, with the M-59 freeway to the south and Interstate 75 to the east, is attractive, Waterman said.
“It’s very valuable in terms of its location and its placement not only to the city but in Oakland County as well,” she said. “The central location of Pontiac in Oakland County is a distinguishing fixture and the location of the Silverdome property itself is a draw and certainly a great asset for this particular location. It’s at the confluence of major freeways and the city.
“The location and its placement is a very valuable factor in addition to the fact that that large parcel of land — 127 acres — is fertile property that has not been environmentally challenged in any way over time. It is important in terms of the flexibility for its development for the next economic use.”
Waterman said the city has been involved in discussions with numerous entities interested in the property. She declined to name those entities.
But the site was included in Oakland County’s contribution to Detroit’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters.
Waterman said she would like to see something that adds to the city’s economic resurgence.
“That could be a number of things,” she said. “I’m not going to pinpoint and nail down those possibilities. I want to keep the envelope open because there are a number of ways that project could be could be transformational for the city. Whether it’s mixed-use development, industrial park, a destination, franchise kind of activity — any of those. Or it could be a project that involves one or more of the categories. Because of the size, there’s a lot of flexibility that can be used in developing a concept for that site.”
The City of Pontiac issued a demolition permit earlier this month to Adamo Group. Officials aren’t disclosing the price tag for the demolition, said Rachel Loughrin, economic development director for the City of Pontiac.
The city will hold a farewell event during the implosion, and there will be a public parking and viewing area for the demolition at the Oakland County Water Resource Commission site at 155 N. Opdyke. Vehicles must be parked by 8:15 a.m.
Williams said it’s hard to gauge how much of a crowd will gather to watch the implosion.
“I think people are excited about it happening,” she said. “Especially some of the residents. For Pontiac, it’s long awaited for some of them.”
The preparation work for the implosion took about 10 days and 6 people to place the explosives, Adamo said. The final charges will be placed over the weekend and the site locked down.
The implosion Sunday differs from the Georgia Dome in that only the upper ring of the Silverdome will be demolished with 300 pounds of dynamite. The Georgia Dome was a complete demolition with the use of 4,800 pounds of dynamite. The difference between the two methods was the cost and timing.
“There’s no real hard schedule,” said Adamo of the Silverdome. “We have the luxury of a pretty relaxed schedule to complete the project. Whereas the Georgia Dome is under a very aggressive schedule.”
There will be a countdown and one person, yet to be determined, will press the implosion button. During the implosion, Adamo said spectators should expect to hear some bangs, pops and a couple booms.
“The exterior columns are going to come folding inward,” he said. “All the weight is going to collapse down on the existing structure.”
No one will be allowed within 350 feet of the structure during the event. Law enforcement and emergency response personnel are expected to be present.
Adamo said he doesn’t expect much debris in the air because the building is predominately steel.
Following implosion, the rest of the demolition will be done in phases during the next year. The steel will be sent to a scrapyard and the concrete will be recycled on site.
“It’ll be resting on top of the bowl section,” Adamo said. “Then we’ll have big pieces of equipment, heavy demolition equipment that will start to take it apart. That process takes several months.”
1973: Pontiac taxpayers finance $55.7 million to build the 80,000-seat Silverdome on 127 acres.
Aug. 23, 1975: Silverdome opens. Detroit Lions beat Kansas City Chiefs, 27-24.
Sept. 18, 1987: Pope John Paul II celebrates Mass.
1994: Hosted four first-round games of the soccer World Cup.
Jan. 6, 2002: Detroit Lions beat Dallas Cowboys, 15-10, in their last home game there before moving.
Nov. 16, 2009: Triple Properties bids $583,000 for the Silverdome.
October 2015: Announcement that the Silverdome would be demolished.
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