When Pontiac Hosted the World

You could see the giant Swiss flag from miles around upon approach to the Pontiac Silverdome. The stark reminder that this was the world’s game, and seemingly one of the very few things that hadn’t been dominated by Americans over the years. As anticipation continued to build upon entering the stadium, my childhood eyes were fixated on something beyond the screaming Swiss fans or the pageantry before the game. For me, it was the sight of a grass field inside the building where Barry Sanders had run wild and monster trucks had run wilder. For one month in June of 1994, the United States was at the epicenter of the soccer world.

The World Cup begins on Friday in South Africa, and the event has a totally different attitude for Americans following winning hosting rites for the ’94 Cup. Americans almost take for granted the appearance every four years in the World Cup, but it was the preceding Cup in 1990 that began the current run of participating in six straight World Cup finals. Also, it was the 1994 World Cup that made the idea of somebody buying the Silverdome for soccer purposes seem somewhat reasonable. Now that we’ve seen it can be done, and successful for major events, there is no reason why soccer can’t be as big at the professional level as it is for kids in grade school.

It’s also interesting to look back and think of how that moment in June of 1994 was a high point for Pontiac that would begin a significant downfall. The hotels and businesses in the area see the occasional traffic, but the events don’t come to the Silverdome like they used to. The drive-ins are being cleaned up for use again, but the empty Big Buck Brewery and the continuously shuttered Showcase Cinemas remind everyone of what was. The city of Pontiac is such a history-filled location at the other end of Woodward from Detroit, but for one sunny afternoon, history was made anew in its largest venue.