Michigan’s Pontiac Stadium finally shut its doors in 2013 following a slow decline after the NFL’s Detroit Lions moved to Ford Fields. Pontiac City, the hometown of General Motors’ Pontiac brand of vehicles, has clashed with the stadium’s new residents. The city is less than pleased that its namesake stadium has been reduced to a junkyard for Volkswagen’s eco-unfriendly diesel vehicles.
News of Volkswagen’s emissions scandal broke in 2015 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced their discovery that Volkswagen had intentionally programmed their diesel vehicles to swindle emissions tests by tuning down their engines during testing. Diesel nitrous oxide and dioxide emissions in Volkswagen vehicles were found to be up to forty times higher after testing than they were when they had been measured under laboratory conditions. The results were discovered based on observations of the stark (and impossible) differences between American and European models of the same vehicle, such as the Volkswagen Golf. As a result of the scandal, Volkswagen’s stock price dropped by a third and the company was forced to implement an $18 billion program to recall and refit the diesel vehicles. Volkswagen also had to pay a hefty $2.8 billion fine for test rigging.
Volkswagen has been storing hundreds of recalled vehicles at the Pontiac stadium. Unfortunately for both Volkswagen and Pontiac, the refitting of diesel vehicles to meet current emissions requirements set by the EPA has not proceeded as planned. Volkswagen is struggling, and their cars are stranded in the stadium. The vehicles are being stored there indefinitely, leaving the old stadium looking like a full house despite being empty and rotting away. Only recently has Volkswagen found an acceptable solution to the emissions problem, which was approved by the EPA in late July. Because the stadium is scheduled to be demolished this year, the fate of the stored vehicles remained uncertain until Volkswagen engineers came up with the solution. Without it, Volkswagen would have been forced to send the vehicles out to be chopped up and recycled.
Pontiac’s frustration with the stadium began before Volkswagen came into the picture. The stadium was once a popular venue for musical legends, such as Elvis, The Who, and Led Zeppelin. However, use of it declined after the Lions moved to Ford Fields. The stadium’s outlook only worsened when new owner Andreas Apostolopoulos used investments to revive the stadium and reopen it with a monster truck show and other major events only to auction off bits and pieces of it in 2014. Plans made in 2015 to demolish the stadium in 2016 were met with delay after delay, pushing the demolition date into 2017. The bureaucratic and legal battle the city has undergone to put their beloved giant bird bath of a stadium to rest has left all involved frustrated.
J. Travis Mihelick, an attorney for the city, stated that “the city will not continue to let violation after violation go unresolved”. Mihelick spoke for local residents when he said that “we must have some productive movement, other than promises that have been repeated and broken time and again over the last several years.” The stadium’s creeping degradation will likely always remain a sore spot for the people of Pontiac, who both loved and hated it.