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Pontiac Silverdome sold…Or is it?

The Daily Tribune (Oakland County) and Michigan Messenger report Adreas Apostolopoulos, a Toronto-based businessman representing Triple Properties Inc., purchased the Pontiac Silverdome in a Monday auction.

The City of Pontiac sold the former home of the National Football League’s Detroit Lions for the winning bid of $583,000. The group has 45 days to close the deal. Future plans for the Silverdome involve using the venue for men’s and women’s professional soccer franchises. Indoor professional soccer is still more watchable than the Lions.

The Tribune reports the city has turned down bids between $17 million and $22 million in the past. Quite the drop from there to just over a half-million.

What does any of this have to do with horse racing you may ask?

The Silverdome’s connection to the racing industry is twofold.

First, the construction and repair of the Silverdome was partially bankrolled by a subsidy from the Michigan Agriculture Equine Development Fund, the source of the state’s racing industry development programs including breeder’s awards and Sire Stakes purses. The fund provided $800,000 per year from 1974 to 1990, then $726,400 in 1991 before the subsidy was discontinued by the state.

Using these figures, the racing industry kicked in approximately $13,526,400 over the 17 years of the subsidy to build and maintain the Silverdome. The funding was ended when it was decided the money was going toward operational expenses instead of building costs.

The second connection may also end up being the reason the Silverdome won’t be hosting soccer games anytime soon.

Crain’s Detroit Business reports an Oakland County judge has ordered an injunction halting the sale to the Toronto group because another party claims to already have an agreement in place with the city.

Civil rights attorney H. Wallace Parker, also president and CEO of Silver Stallion Development Corp., filed the complaint leading to the injunction on the grounds the sale violated a prior agreement with the city to purchase the property.

The Pontiac City Council approved the purchase of the Silverdome by Silver Stallion Development in July 2008 for $20 million, later reduced to $17 million. However, the purchase was vetoed by the city’s mayor when he deemed Parker unable to pay for he project – a claim Parker denies, though Crain’s reports he never produced the money to pay for the bid.

According to Crain’s, Parker intended to develop the area into a $250 million entertainment venue, Thoroughbred racetrack and equine research facility. Silver Stallion Development applied for race dates at the Silverdome with the Office of Racing Commissioner for 2009, but the request was denied. It is unclear whether the proposed racetrack would involve leveling the Silverdome itself, but it is hard to imagine racing going on inside the structure.

Regardless of the outcome, it is fascinating to see how the racing industry touches businesses far away from the racetrack.

UPDATE: Here is another informative article from the Michigan Messenger on the Silverdome auction, identifying the winning bidder and and offering further information on the key players in this story. Apparently someone wanted to buy the property to use as a landfill(!).

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