Barry Sanders once ran free at the Pontiac Silverdome. He enjoyed the best years of his career on the stadium’s fabled hardscrabble turf, and like anyone else in Michigan, he’s been having a hard time watching the slow, painful demise of his former home.
“It really is hard to beleive, because so many fantastic games and moments happened there for me and a lot of other players before me,” Sanders said on Tuesday via the Detroit Free Press, appearing on campus at ESPN promoting the Madden ’15 video game. “So it’s sad to see that.”
While few fans could have possibly had the type of on-field memories Sanders enjoys about his old building, the stadium still represents a unique place in time. It will never be as revered as Tiger Stadium, Olympia Stadium or even Joe Louis Arena, but many a fall afternoon was spent in and around Pontiac for 26 years. The Silverdome is opening weekend, Thanksgiving dinner at grandma’s house, heartbreak and joy, brawls, monster truck rallies, concerts and Monday Night Football in one.
After sitting unoccupied and undeveloped a bit too long, a brutal winter full of snow, ice and the always constant threat of another polar vortex helped the Silverdome finally put itself out of its own misery. The place which once famously got too loud now stands to be quieted for good. No matter how many losses the Lions may have sustained in the building, how empty it may have been during lean times or soulless it may have seemed from the outside, the Silverdome is still a part of us.
Watching it get ignored, then being forced to see the photos of the worst kinds of decay hit too close to home. It was like watching a beloved family member slowly deteriorate while understanding the grim outcome would eventually come one unknown day. The Silverdome floor has now taken on water, and the roof has begun to collapse. The structure is a shell of its former self, so news that the remaining assets will be auctioned off and the site will be re-developed is positive.
It puts an end to the depressing state of affairs that’s been upsetting everyone, from the average person to Sanders, the runner who had many a magical day at the dome. For many, the Silverdome represents Brett Favre to Sterling Sharpe, Dave Williams’ overtime run back, or the Detroit Pistons’ struggles to get over the hump. For others, seeing Pope John Paul, watching Hulk Hogan, the Super Bowl or the exploits of Sanders during the last Lions’ playoff win will remain the lasting image of the building.
Either way, positive or negative remembrances, the stadium became part of our fabric, and much like losing a family member or old friend, it’s never easy to let that special connection go, especially in ugly drawn-out fashion.