November 17, 2009 at 1:00 am

Silverdome sale price disappoints

Pontiac officials wanted more than $583K for stadium

The unnamed Canadian company that purchased the Silverdome plans to bring soccer to the stadium. (Steve Perez / The Detroit News)

Pontiac -- Nearly 35 years after taxpayers spent $55.7 million building the Pontiac Silverdome and a year after a $20 million sale fell through, city officials have sold the arena once called the most desirable property in Oakland County.

The price: $583,000.

"This was a giveaway," said David J. Leitch, a broker with an Auburn Hills based realty firm.

"The property alone, at $10,000 an acre, should have gone for more than that. And you have the Silverdome, its contents, and the infrastructure already in place. I had estimated it would probably go for between $1.2 million and $3 million. I can't believe it."

Such sentiments weren't uncommon Monday, after city officials unsealed bids showing the property that was home to the Detroit Lions was sold at auction to an unnamed Canadian company that plans to bring a soccer league to the stadium. The company's name will be released when the sale is finalized within 45 days, said Fred Leeb, the city's emergency financial manager. Leeb acknowledged the sale "is not a windfall," but said the Silverdome's $1.5 million upkeep drained the beleaguered city's finances.

"We had hoped it would have brought more, but now the city can be freed of its upkeep and get it back on the tax rolls," Leeb said. Pontiac Mayor Clarence Phillips said he was "disappointed" but knew the city had to shed the costly structure. Councilman Everett Seay said he expects someone -- possibly a prospective buyer turned down in recent years -- to file a lawsuit to block the sale.

"The citizens of Pontiac deserve better," Seay said. "This is pennies on the dollar (of what it cost). It goes to show how bad times are ... Worse, we don't even know who bought it."

The company, which Leeb described only as a Toronto-based group of real estate investors and a "family-run business," was one of four bidders considered during an auction at the Marriott Hotel. Others bidders were not identified and most left without talking to reporters. One, Mickey Shapiro, a Farmington Hills developer, was rushing to catch a plane.

"We tried a bid, but it wasn't good enough," shrugged Shapiro, who declined to reveal his offer. "You win some, you lose some."

Dan Courtemanche, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Major League Soccer, said the league wasn't in discussion with any group on placing a team in the Detroit area.

"We have not had any recent discussions about having an expansion team in Detroit," Courtemanche said.

"We've had very preliminary talks in years past, but nothing in the last six to 12 months of substance."

An official for the Canadian Football League said the CFL has focused its efforts on Canada and not expanding into the United States.

The 80,300-seat stadium opened in 1975 and has largely remained empty since the Detroit Lions left for Ford Field in 2002. The sale included 127 adjacent acres."> (248) 338-0319