2nd effort implodes top section of Silverdome

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac – A second effort produced success.

One day after explosive charges failed to bring down part of the Pontiac Silverdome, a repeat attempt did the trick Monday afternoon, collapsing the abandoned stadium’s upper section.

The implosion occurred at 4:07 p.m., marking the long-awaited beginning of the end for an obsolete landmark that hosted a Super Bowl, World Cup matches, Wrestlemania, Elvis Presley and Pope John Paul II, in addition to hundreds of Lions and Pistons games.

Russell Southerland of Pontiac said he came to the Silverdome to watch Monday’s implosion because he has so many memories connected with the old dome.

“I grew up right down the road here,” he said. “One reason I’m here is because I watched it on TV growing up, watching Wrestlemania here ... I saw football games here, everything.”

Sunday morning’s initial implosion attempt left thousands of eager onlookers feeling deflated. While puffs of smoke emerged around the 400,000-square-foot structure during the nine-second “show,” the Silverdome’s upper columns remained stubbornly intact.

The implosion of the 42-year-old stadium’s upper ring is the first phase of a 9-to-12-month process to raze the abandoned stadium and clear the 127-acre site for development.

Earlier Monday, Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman and other officials faced questions about Sunday’s failed implosion at a press conference at city hall, but others, including Triple Properties, a Canadian concern that owns the Silverdome, declined an invitation to participate and did not return telephone calls from The Detroit News.

And Waterman said Adamo Demolition – the contractor in charge of taking the former city-owned stadium down – told her Triple Properties had put a “gag order” on them against talking about the project.

“I really wish they were here,” said Waterman, whose office sent out press releases saying questions would be answered at the afternoon event. “I had been given the impression that Adamo planned to be here until a few minutes ago I was informed there was a gag order …”

Pontiac economic development director Rachel Loughrin said she is eager for the process to move forward so the city can see the benefits of new business at the site, north of M-59 on the border of Pontiac and Auburn Hills.

“The property is very valuable and there is a lot of interest in it,” she said. “We know something is going to happen there; it’s just a matter of when.”

Waterman said development of the property will mark a “new era for Pontiac.”

"The second implosion was dramatic and final proof the Silverdome had met its destiny with the wrecking ball, " said Waterman. "It was resilient in the end and represents the passing of that era."

The building opened in 1975 and cost $55.7 million. It featured performances from Elvis on New Year’s Eve 1975 and Pope John Paul II in 1987. It was the site of the largest recorded attendance for a live indoor sporting event at the time when WrestleMania III attracted a crowd of 93,173 in 1987. In 1994, it hosted indoor matches for the World Cup.

But the stadium fell into disrepair after the Lions left in 2002 and moved into Ford Field in downtown Detroit. Triple Investment paid $583,000 for the empty dome in 2009.

The mayor described the Silverdome, which hosted the Lions from 1975 to 2001 and the Pistons from 1978-88, as “a Grand Lady” that symbolizes the challenges that have beset Pontiac, including a decade of bankruptcy and emergency financial managers and legal battles.