Goodbye Silverdome, Goodbye Childhood
By Mike Payton
For the first 17 years of my life my favorite team of any sport inhabited a place called the Pontiac Silverdome. If you have never been to this strucural landmark in your life, then I feel bad for you. If you have, then you know exactly where I’m coming from when I say when the Silverdome was rocking there was nothing like it. You know the feeling I mean because you’ve stepped foot in this massive stadium, you’ve tailgated in it’s parking lot and you’ve felt every emotion possible at it’s sporting events.
Today I learned that nine years after it’s initial closing, the Pontiac Silverdome will be demolished in the spring of 2016.
I can say that growing up in the Detroit area I always loved to go to sporting events. If you lived on that side of the state in the 90’s it was just as easy then as it is now to find a place to watch sports. Although back then Tiger Stadium was still up and running, The Cobo hosted wrestling events and soccer games for the defunct Detroit Rockers. The Palace was still brand new and the Joe was still polished up during the Red Wings Stanley Cup runs in the late 90’s. But for me it was all about the modern-day coliseum that was the Silverdome.
Sure today its missing it’s roof and the turf is torn up and covered in mold. But back in the day it was gigantic treasure to be hold for me. I’ll never forget the first time I ever stepped foot inside this behemoth of a stadium. November 15th, 1998, My parents were able to get me tickets to see the Lions for my 13th birthday.
After the family devoured a Buscemi’s pizza at my birthday party, my step-dad and I headed over to the Silverdome for Lions vs Bears on Sunday Night Football. I vividly remember walking through the parking lot and seeing all the tailgater’s and a middle aged man selling Detroit Lions towel’s. He was telling everyone they could use them to try their tears. If only he’d known that the next 17 years were going to be a lot harder, he would have saved himself a towel or two.
Once we walked in I was immediately in awe. The crowd was already loud and you could feel the stadium shake below your feet and feel the wind generated by the noise, sweep across your face. I can’t remember where we sat exactly, but I do remember thinking Touchdown Tommy Vardell was the greatest fullback ever after he scored three of his 21 career touchdowns on the Bears that night and led the Lions to a 26-3 win.
If you’re interested, Barry Sanders was no slouch that day. He took off for 114 yards on 24 carries. But by no means was this one of Barry’s greatest games. Charlie Batch passed for 253 yards and a touchdown. On defense Robert Porcher sacked Steve Stenstrom twice. If anyone has game film from this day, it would make me a very happy man to see it again.
The Lions weren’t the only thing shaking the Silverdome off its foundation during its heyday. If you’re not a Lions fan, perhaps the one thing you know about the giant stadium in Pontiac, Michigan is this right here.
Wrestlemania three is widely considered to be one of the greatest wrestling events of all time. So many things happened on Sunday, March 29th, 1987. Not only did the event set a world indoor attendance record for a sporting event by cramming 93,173 people into the dome, but the event marked two of the most iconic moments in wrestling history. Hulk Hogan slamming Andre The Giant is not just a great moment in the history of wrestling, it’s also a pop culture moment that just about everyone has seen at least once.
If you’re a full on wrestling fan then you know that this was the site of what is considered by many to be the greatest or one of the greatest wrestling matches of all time. Randy Savage put his Intercontinental title on the line against Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat in what was a sight to behold. Even if you don’t like pro wrestling, you can understand this match and understand the story being told throughout this match. In fact I recommend you nerd out and watch it right now, I’ll wait.
Wasn’t that awesome?
Ok maybe you’re not a Lions fan or a wrestling fan. Don’t worry this mecca had you covered. The Detroit Pistons made the Silverdome their home from 1978 to 1988. The stadium was so big that during Pistons game only half of the building was in use. The Pistons hosted the Lakers at the Silverdome in their first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history. Of course the Pistons would win the title in the Palace the very next year. But the Bad Boys of Detroit began their story on this hallowed ground.
The Silverdome also hosted legendary music acts like Michael Jackson, Led Zepplin and the Rolling Stones. Other notable events include the Michigan Panthers of the USFL, the Cherry Bowl, the Motor City Bowl, the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Super Bowl XVI, the 1979 NBA All-Star game and who could forget these gems?
Now that the dust is settled and the plans are in place to tear it all down, I can’t help but think a piece of my childhood goes with it. This is yet another reminder that I’m getting older and that life changes all of the time. I wish that I could have done something to help preserve this piece of my childhood and open the doors back up. It angers me that the Pittsburgh Steelers were the last NFL team to step foot on the turf. It’s the same feeling I got when Uncle Phil (James Avery) passed away in 2013. My childhood is over, and I can never get it back. A part of my life is deleting itself and all I can do is look forward to the future in search of something new to fill the void.
The Silverdome is now another story I will someday tell my children about. The roof may be gone, the field may be torn up and moldy. But I will never forget what it meant to be there or the feeling I felt the first time I walked through the doors. Yes it may be a dump now, but for me the Silverdome will always be this.
Mike Payton is an Editor at SideLion Report. He is from Holland, Michigan by way of Warren, Michigan. He considers himself to be obsessed with the Detroit Lions. Mike’s work has been featured on ESPN Radio, Fox Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio and si.com. Mike is also a weekly contributor on It is what is with Sean Baligian on ESPN 96.1 and a contributor for The Holland Sentinel. Follow Mike Payton on Twitter@SLR_Mike
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