Hi ho Silverdome away

The Pontiac Silverdome is no more. What was once the largest stadium in the NFL, the structure finally crumbled to the ground a couple of weeks ago.

It didn’t go without a fight, though, as it withstood the first demolition blast before finally succumbing the following day to a second detonation meant to make it implode.

The Silverdome used to be an impressive structure with a huge seating capacity and was a pioneer in the world of stadiums, boasting a fiberglass fabric roof that was held up by air pressure, a first in the pro football world.

It hosted the Pistons for a while, a Super Bowl and WrestleMania III where Hulk Hogan body-slammed a physically exhausted Andre the Giant in the stadium’s most iconic moment.

That just shows how inept the Lions were during their time in Pontiac.

However, in the years following the Lions’ move to Ford Field in downtown Detroit, the Silverdome began to symbolize the problems not only with the franchise, but the city in general, even if it wasn’t in the city of Detroit.

By the time it finally bit the dust, the ‘Dome looked like the setting from an apocalyptic film.

A winter storm tore the roof apart with the pieces littering the water-logged artificial turf where Barry Sanders juked and deked his way to the end zone. The corridors were littered with debris, windows were shattered and grass was literally growing inside the stadium.

It looked as if zombies or the Demogorgons from the “Stranger Things” Netflix franchise would pop out from behind the corners at any moment to tackle some unsuspecting custodian who had clearly been skipping work for the last four years.

Despite its depressing interior, the Silverdome still had a bizarre charm to it. I had that same feeling for the Metrodome growing up in Minnesota.

Like the Silverdome, the Metrodome had its own fiberglass, air-pressure roof and hosted its own brand of inept football, sometimes with the Vikings and annually with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

It also had its own unique brand of smell, hot dog water and stale beer, that lingered wherever you wandered the stadium. Thanks to that odor, I could instantly tell I was in the Metrodome even if I had been gagged and blindfolded.

However, there were some good times like the Twins’ two World Series titles, the Randy Moss and then Adrian Peterson eras with the Vikings, and Super Bowl XXVI. Even though it was clearly built on the cheap and was well past its prime, Minnesotans still loved it like that rundown sport-utility vehicle in our driveways.

When I arrived in Michigan three years ago and I heard the Silverdome was still standing, I was hoping I’d eventually get a chance to check it out.

That ended up being sooner than expected as Munising and Ishpeming both made it to Ford Field that year for the state championship football games and I was assigned to cover both games.

After unfortunately after watching the Mustangs fall in the Division 8 title game, I had some time to kill before my stories were due that night, so like Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee from “Lord of the Rings,” my wife and I set out in the wild to find the Silverdome.

We didn’t have to go far as it was only about half a mile from our hotel. Seeing it abruptly coming into sight in front of me, I was left underwhelmed. I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting, but after sitting inside the posh interior of Ford Field, I guess my expectations were higher than they should’ve been.

The Silverdome was just a plain black rectangular structure that symbolized everything you’d expect from a 1970s-era stadium — cheap, boring, though it fulfilled its duties.

We drove around it and snapped a few photos and I briefly flirted with the idea of infiltrating the abandoned behemoth to get a closer look, but the wife convinced me that this was stupid. Looking back on it, she was probably right.

Before we left to come back to the Upper Peninsula, I made sure to drive back down the road from our hotel to get one last look at the Silverdome to entrench an image into my brain.

It’s the image of a simple building that fulfilled its purpose for almost four decades. It didn’t wow you with special features or even quality athletics, since the Pistons left right before they won their first two NBA titles in 1989 and 1990.

It was just there doing its job whenever it was asked, and in a way, that was an even better symbol for the Detroit area.

We’ll always remember the disrepair that the Silverdome fell into, and even if we don’t, there’s plenty of images online to remind us of it.

However, it stood strong through all of those rough winters and when it came time for the nation to bid it farewell, it continued to fight off its demise, giving one final attempt to show that it could still be useful.

Now the Silverdome is gone, but it will continue to live on in our thoughts as that stadium that was never anything special, but one that was reliable and lasted far longer than it should have.

Tough and defiant till the very end.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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