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55.7 Million Reasons to Reject Public Financing for Sports Arenas

November 19th, 2009

The next time someone tells you that the taxpayer residents of a city or urban area need to help some billionaire businessman finance the construction of a sports arena where he’ll sell you $5 hot dogs and $9 beers, remember the Pontiac Silverdome’s epic fail.

Vacant about 99% of the time since 2002, the ‘Dome has been maintained of late by the City of Pontiac, at an annual cost (to taxpayers) of about $1.5M.

As recently as 2005, the City refused a $20M purchase offer. This week, the City of Pontiac (MI) accepted a bid to purchase the Silverdome, nestled among 127 sprawling acres of crumbling concrete and lightpots, on the outskirts of 20.2 square miles of blight known as the “City of Pontiac”, for $583,000.

Five-hundred eighty-three thousand dollars. That’s about $8 per seat; the cost of a single domestic draft beer at most Stadiums today.

Home to the Detroit Lions of the NFL for 25 years before they built the sweet new Ford Field stadium in Downtown Detroit, the Silverdome cost $55.7 million to build, adjusted for inflation that’s something like $250-600 million, depending on how you calculate it.

Ford Field , which cost over $400M to build, like the Silverdome and most modern arenas, was financed largely by public (i.e., taxpayer) funds which were justified by spurious claims of “urban renewal”, “development”, “jobs”, “tax base” and other economic bullshit.



  • Zach S. says on: November 19, 2009 at 2:57 pm


    I always hate when politicians spout spending taxpayer money to promot jobs. What this means to me is “working welfare” and creating jobs that are NOT needed. If they were needed, they would have been or eventually would have been created by the private industry.

    I HATE working welfare and if you are going to promote working welfare, at least do it right. The road contruction in Michigan is a perfect example.

  • Brad says on: November 19, 2009 at 6:33 pm


    The only cool thing that ever happened at the Silverdome was


  • David Z says on: November 19, 2009 at 7:39 pm


    I don’t think I’ve ever watched that before. That was awesome.

  • theftthroughinflation says on: November 19, 2009 at 7:58 pm


    Don’t forget the olympic starium in Montreal for the ’76 olympics!
    We just paid it off in 2006! I won’t even talk about how random chunks of concrete fall off or the roof colapses.

  • Don says on: November 19, 2009 at 9:00 pm


    It’s appalling how the citizenry keeps falling for these stadium ploys over and over again. Right now in my hometown of Fort Myers, FL the local politicians are preparing the herd for a 3rd, yes 3rd stadium. There is no such thing as collective intelligence but there is collective stupidity.

  • Brad says on: November 20, 2009 at 10:38 am


    Did you see who the ring announcer was? It was Bob Eucher, better known as Harry Doyle from the Major League movies. Just a bit outside!

  • winston smith says on: November 22, 2009 at 8:21 pm


    and they keep naming the stadiums the name of their biggest donor for the stadium. even though we people put more money into it. we’ve got a stadium in my town called The State Mutual Insurance Company Stadium. doesn’t that roll off your tongue?

  • David Z says on: November 23, 2009 at 11:15 pm


    @Winston: great point!

    Glad to hear from you again, it’s been a while!

  • gilliganscorner says on: November 24, 2009 at 8:23 am



    We had the same thing occur here up in Toronto with our Skydome (I submitted the name “Condome” for a naming contest back when it was built…it wasn’t accepted. I wonder why?;) )

    You can read my post here on it:

    * Built over three years from 1986 to 1989 at a cost of $600 million dollars, paid for by three layers of government (federal, provincial, and municipal) and a host of private insiders. When it opened, it was $165 million dollars in debt.

    * By 1990, the Skydome (or the “Condome”) was bleeding debt. Some say it was estimated that it would have to operate 600 days a year to book an unknown amount of profit. Personally, I think that number was simply “to break even”.

    * By 1993, it was $400 million dollars in debt.

    * In 1994, The provincial government issued a bailout by paying off all the debt with it’s extortion money taxes collected from it’s citizens and sold it to a private insider-connected cartel for $151 million dollars.

    * In 1998, the cartel filed for bankruptcy protection.

    * Another cartel (Sportsco) bought it out for $85 million in late 1998.

    * Finally, Rogers (a cable and wireless company) bought it in 2004, for $25 million dollars.

    * Note that all these numbers quoted have not been adjusted for inflation, so Rogers got it for much less. In fact $600 million dollars in 1989 converts to about $847,010,869.57 in 2004 dollars. Rogers bought the stadium for about 3% of the original cost of construction.

no third solution

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