The Roof Collapses at Silverdome

Associated Press

The roof of the Pontiac Silverdome collapsed Monday under the weight of an overnight snowfall, sending three Detroit Lions players, James Jones, Gary Danielson and Eric Hipple, scurrying for cover and disrupting the Detroit Pistons’ National Basketball Assn. schedule.

“It looked just like an avalanche,” said Danielson, the starting quarterback for the National Football League team, who was practicing with Jones and Hipple when wet snow tore through the roof at 11:40 a.m. There were no injuries reported.

“It looked like somebody threw hand grenades in there. It was a lot more dangerous situation than we thought at first.”


Pistons spokesman Matt Dobek said that wet snow that accumulated overnight on the 10-year-old, $55.7-million stadium tore at least seven holes in the fiberglass-and-Teflon roof, warping the wooden basketball floor and sending concrete from the upper deck smashing into several plastic seats. The roof, which is supported by air, was also deflated.

No damage estimate was immediately available, but R. Clayton Jones, executive director of the operating Pontiac Stadium Authority, said he didn’t believe there was any major structural damage.

An NBA game Monday night between the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks was postponed until April 7. The NBA also said that Wednesday’s game between the Pistons and New York Knicks would be played at Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit, and Friday’s game against the Utah Jazz would be switched to Thursday, also at Joe Louis.

It was the second time the roof of the 80,000-seat facility had collapsed. The first time was during a thunderstorm in August, 1976.

Dobek said repairs would not begin until “the rain subsides, and they get the roof cleared off. It’s raining outside and it’s raining in here as well.”

Early reports said about 100 people were evacuated from the Main Event restaurant and from offices within the Silverdome. But stadium receptionist Sally Carrillo said those were incorrect--that authorities ordered the stadium area evacuated, but kept other offices and the Main Event restaurant open.

Danielson said he, backup quarterback Hipple and fullback Jones were playing catch on the stadium floor when the collapse began.

“I was telling James, ‘I’ve seen this thing rip before with lightning,’ ” Danielson said from his home in Rochester. “It was leaking all over the drains.”

Hipple was standing beneath the southwest corner of the roof when it began tearing, Danielson said.

“All we did was start pointing. Eric didn’t know what was happening. Then it started coming down all at once, and we ran like hell to the tunnel.”

The roof has “come down and lost pressure before, but I’ve never seen it do this before,” the nine-year Lions veteran said. “Maybe one-fifth of the sections are blown out.”