Dozens of iconic American stadiums have come and gone over the last two centuries. Unfortunately, some of them weren’t spared the agony of decay and neglect. The five stadiums on this list were once sanctuaries for their teams and landmarks in the community. Sadly, their legacies were tarnished thanks to years of abandonment.
5. Metropolitan Stadium — Bloomington, Minn.
Known affectionately to Minnesotans as “the Met,” Metropolitan stadium was the original home of the Vikings and the Twins. Built on a farm in 1956
for the minor league Minneapolis Millers , the stadium eventually lured the Washington Senators to Bloomington, and later, the NFL expansion Vikings.
Despite its disjointed seating — the outfield bleachers weren’t even connected
— the Met (1961-1981) proved to be indispensable for its tenants.
Only four years after leaving D.C.,
the Twins won the American League pennant by seven games before losing a hard-fought World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Earlier that summer, the Met hosted the annual MLB All-Star Game, which saw six Twins make the American League squad. And while the brutal Minnesota winters were great for the Vikings, they were anathema for their opponents. The Purple People Eaters reached four Super Bowls during their 20-year tenure at the Met, largely thanks to the decisive home-field advantage.
Even The Beatles dropped by the Met for a concert. It was the group’s lone gig in The Gopher State.
But during the 1970s, the Met fell into disrepair. The stadium was notorious for its dilapidated facilities, poorly maintained field, and considered one of the worst venues in professional sports.
By 1982, both the Twins and Vikings had moved into the Metrodome. The Met was officially abandoned, and it became a breeding ground for vandalism and urban explorers
. Eventually razed in 1985, the Mall of America was erected in its place nearly a decade later.
4. Tulane Stadium — New Orleans, La.
For almost half a century, Tulane Stadium was one of the most revered football venues in America. The home of the Sugar Bowl from its inaugural game in 1935 until 1974, Tulane Stadium holds a special place in the annals of both college and pro football.
Opened in 1926 as the third home of the Tulane Green Wave football team, Tulane Stadium (1926-1980) became a household name thanks to the prestige of the Sugar Bowl. When the NFL expanded to New Orleans in the late 1960s, the Saints used Tulane Stadium for their home field from 1967-1974. It was there in 1970 that Saints kicker Tom Demspey booted a then-record 63-yard field goal to beat the Detroit Lions.
Thanks to its seating capacity of nearly 81,000 and ideal location in the Big Easy, Tulane Stadium was a popular choice for the Super Bowl. The stadium hosted three NFL championships in a six year span, and is one of five host stadiums no longer standing.
But in 1975, on the same day that the lavish
Superdome opened, Tulane Stadium was condemned. Much of the stadium was shuttered, but thanks the outcry of university officials, it remained viable for NFL practices, high school football games, and other low profile events.
A gloomy relic in its twilight years, Tulane Stadium was completely demolished by 1980. Dorm rooms and other university facilities occupy the site today.
3. Astrodome — Houston, Tex.
Hailed as the Eighth Wonder of the World when it opened in 1965, the Houston Astrodome was the Arc de Triomphe of American stadiums. For vi
sionary Roy Hofheinz, the Astrodome wasn’t just the center of Houston’s sports universe, but its entertainment hub as well.
The world’s first indoor, multipurpose domed stadium, the Astrodome was replete with swanky restaurants, upholstered seats, and opulent luxury boxes. Everything the modern fan (and athlete) takes for granted today was pioneered by the Astrodome.
But the dome’s influence wasn’t limited to its wondrous engineering. In 1968, the Astrodome (1965-2006) inadvertently revolutionized the sports landscape when it hosted college basketball’s “Game of the Century.” The showdown pitted No. 1 UCLA against No. 2 Houston, with the Cougars edging the Bruins 71-69 in front of more than 50,000 fans. The positive response to college basketball’s first regular season game aired in prime time nationwide was unprecedented, and the NCAA picked the Astrodome to host the 1971 Final Four. Nearly four decades later, practically every Final Four is played in a football stadium.
In the fall of ’68 the Astrodome opened its doors to the NFL’s Houston Oilers. The notion that football could be virtually weatherproof was groundbreaking. The dome’s affect on football can still be felt today, as evidenced by the proliferation of domed stadiums — most of which keep the roof closed all season.
Despite its extravagance, Oilers owner Bud Adams felt that the Astrodome wasn’t enough for his troubled franchise.
In the mid-1990s, Adams threatened to move the team if Houston didn’t fund construction for a new stadium. The city had already buckled to his demands before, removing the stadium’s iconic, “Astrolite” scoreboard in 1988.
City officials refused to budge this time, and
the Oilers departed for Tennessee in 1997. The Astros made a similar request, but stayed put when funding for Minute Maid Park was secured. Despite voters rejecting a measure to renovate the Astrodome in November 2013, the stadium has yet to be demolished as of this writing. Its fate is still uncertain.
2. Silverdome — Pontiac, Mich.
Once a state-of-the-art domed facility built to house a multitude of events, the Pontiac Silverdome is nearly unrecognizable today.
Originally part of a larger “urban renewal” project for Pontiac, Mich. — which included plans for a dual stadium complex — the palatial Silverdome was the only building to materialize from C. Don Davidson’s vision to revitalize the sleepy suburb.
Opened in 1975, the Silverdome was declared the world’s largest inflatable domed stadium. One of the few facilities of its era built without accommodations for baseball, it paved the way for facilities like the Hoosier Dome and the Metrodome.
Due to its cavernous seating capacity — just north of 80,000 — the Silverdome was the NFL’s largest stadium for more than two decades. Despite its short lifespan (1975-2001), the Silverdome hosted a number of prestigious events, including Super Bowl XVI, the 1979 NBA All-Star Game, Wrestlemania III, a handful of World Cup matches, the 1988 NBA Finals, and several legendary musicians. It was also the site of the Lions’ last home playoff victory.
But when the Lions bolted to Ford Field in 2002, the Silverdome was left without a primary
tenant. Pontiac experienced a financial crisis trying to maintain the stadium, and the Silverdome quickly fell into ruin. There dome hosted a handful of events between 2003-2005, but it closed in 2006. Auctioned off in 2009, it reopened in 2010, and its parking lot was briefly used as a drive-in.
There were plans to use the Silverdome as a stadium for an MLS team. But when that fell through, the dome again was left untended, and it deteriorated rapidly. The roof collapsed in 2012, and mother nature took over from there. Most of the field is submerged, dotted with Teflon corpses. Hallways are flooded, expensive equipment languishes, and the once glitzy luxury boxes are decrepit.
The Silverdome’s most recent owner started auctioning off parts of the stadium in June 2014. Despite the Silverdome’s likely fate,
the high cost of demolition has postponed its demise.
1. Tiger Stadium — Detroit, Mich.
Opened the same week the Titanic sank, Tiger Stadium (1912-1999) was one of Major League Baseball’s most storied venues.
Tiger Stadium’s location on the intersection of Michigan Ave. and Trumble Ave. gave rise to its nickname, “The Corner.” Its compact and intimate design allowed fans to get close to the game, especially when equipped for baseball. Despite a handful of obstructed views common to parks of its era, Tiger Stadium’s upper deck was considered one of the best in the majors for watching a baseball game.
For power hitters though, it was something of an enigma. The upper deck in left field was practically two stories tall and about 340 feet from home plate. Only four players ever cleared the roof in left: Harmon Killebrew, Frank Howard, Cecil Feilder, and Mark McGwire.
The home of the Tigers and the NFL’s Detroit Lions for more than four decades, Tiger Stadium saw an incredible run of success for its two professional sports teams. The Tigers won four World Series and eight of their 11 American League pennants at The Corner.
The Lions, meanwhile, had their most successful tenure in team history at Tiger Stadium, winning three NFL Championships in a five year span.
The Corner also hosted other monumental sporting events through the early 1970s. Joe Louis defended his world heavyweight title in 1939, knocking out Bob Pastor in what was then called Briggs Stadium. MLB also awarded three All-Star games to The Corner. The final midsummer classic in the venerable park was in 1971, when Reggie Jackson smash the longest home run in All-Star history.
In 1989, Tiger Stadium was added to the National Register of Historic Places. But by the mid 1990s, the antiquated facility started to wear on management. Plans to refurbish Tiger Stadium failed to get traction, and when construction began for a new ballpark in 1997, The Corner seemed destined for demolition.
Tiger Stadium’s sendoff was bittersweet. Detroit won its final home game, but the stadium was shuttered soon after.
Efforts to save or preserve it fell on deaf ears, and The Corner became little more than a backdrop for movies and TV specials.
Unlike most American sports facilities, Tiger Stadium wasn’t demolished after its successor opened, and
the new millennium offered little respite to The Corner. Its continued deterioration brought comparisons to the urban decay sweeping Detroit. But in 2008, demolition finally began. By Sept. 2009, there was nothing left but its frayed baseball diamond. Still, the community rallied around what remained, and worked tirelessly to preserve the memory of one of baseball’s sanctuaries.