Pontiac, Michigan Was A Sports Urban Policy Failure

Public policy failure.

Once upon a time, the National Football League’s Monday Night Football road show stopped in Pontiac, Michigan at the Pontiac Silverdome, once the home of the National Football League’s Detroit Lions, the NBA’s Pistons, a Super Bowl and other events.  The building is gone and the land may house an Amazon distribution and delivery center in the near future. The Silverdome and other long gone stadiums are symbols of urban policy failure. Pontiac politicians saw the building of a football facility as an opportunity to start an urban and economic renewal in the 1960s and did get the building completed by 1975 at a cost of $55 million. Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford took his team out of Detroit and moved it to a building with lots of goodies including a large seating capacity which featured a good number of luxury boxes and club seats.

But a funny thing happened to those 1970s era-built stadiums with all of the goodies, they became outdated quickly and by 2002 Ford was back in Detroit in a new stadium with shinier and newer gadgets. The old building in Pontiac succumbed to bad economics and Mother Nature. Some of the 1970s stadiums did have lingering debt long after they were demolished including Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh and the Kingdome in Seattle. Government officials continue to pursue buildings even though there is a remarkably long record of economic failure in government partnerships with sports owners. None of these facilities ever delivered the promised substantial economic growth although there was very small uptick of growth in areas surrounding the new stadiums and arenas. After leaving, Ford’s Lions played many Monday Night games and there was a Detroit Super Bowl. Pontiac said its final goodbye to the Silverdome in 2018.