PONTIAC, Mich. - The Pontiac Silverdome was the place Elvis, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones played. And Pope John Paul II prayed. It's where Barry Sanders and Isiah Thomas became Detroit sports legends.
A marvel of 1970s-era engineering, the stadium covered by a 10-acre, Teflon-covered roof supported by air once was THE place to see big events — the Super Bowl, the NBA finals, the World Cup, WrestleMania.
Nowadays, the 80,000-seat venue north of Detroit is a shell of its former self. The unforgiving Michigan weather shredded its roof, long strands of which hang from high above or are crumpled on the stadium floor.
The elements have wreaked havoc. Without electricity, the stadium's innards are dark and mold-infested. The weed-covered turf, on which Sanders once made tacklers look silly, is floating on a foot of water like an oversized lily pad. Workers scared off a pair of foxes living underneath the roof remnants that cover a section of Honolulu blue chairs in the lower bowl.
The Silverdome's current owner — an investment company that tried to revive interest by holding events such as soccer and boxing in recent years — is determined to cash in before it's too late, putting pretty much anything and everything inside up for auction starting on Wednesday.
"Every item starts at $5. If we don't get that, it goes in the garbage," said Jim Passeno of RJM Auctions, which is handling the online auction that runs through May 29.
Among the 4,000 items available for bidding are pretzel warmers, a boxing ring, a Zamboni turf machine, flat-screen televisions and scoreboards. A pre-auction sale of Silverdome seats is already underway.
Triple Investment Group LLC, which acquired the Silverdome for just over a half-million dollars in 2009, hasn't said what it intends to do with the structure, Passeno said, putting its future in doubt — much like its older sibling to the south.
The Houston Astrodome's fate has been in limbo since voters last year failed to approve a referendum that would have authorized up to $217 million in bonds to convert the so-called Eighth Wonder of the World into a convention and event center. The iconic stadium, which opened a decade before the Silverdome, fell into disrepair. Stadium seats, pieces of artificial turf and other items were sold to the public late last year.
The Silverdome's auction includes the old scoreboard used by the NBA's Pistons, as well as a section of the end-zone turf used by the Lions before the NFL team moved to Ford Field in 2002.
And while Passeno has heard from a number of Elvis fans clamoring for memorabilia related to the King's show here, alas, it has left the building.
Still, time is running short to take home a piece of Silverdome history, Passeno said.
"The assets are just getting destroyed by this open-air environment," he said.
Auction site: http://www.rjmauctions.com/online_silverdome/assets.html