The Silverdome West Experiment, 1992

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup competition, which is concluding this month, has women’s soccer on the world stage. In late 1992, Michigan State University (MSU) conducted experiments to create ideal turfgrass conditions for the Pontiac Silverdome, the venue which was scheduled to host one of the 1994 World Cup games in men’s soccer. News of the research (dubbed “The Silverdome West Experiment”) was shown in a feature video, hosted by MSU reporter Wanda Reese.

Title screen from the video feature

The video for the feature and its production elements was recorded onto Ā¾” U-matic tapes, a predecessor of VHS videocassettes. The U-matic format was introduced in 1971, but because of the price point of its first playback decks, U-matic became more popular with business and educational sectors than with the general public. According to the “Videotape Preservation Handbook” by Jim Wheeler, the U-matic format has an obsolescence rating of “threatened”.

The video of the feature (now available for online streaming) was recently preserved, making the content from the endangered videocassette more easily accessible to researchers.

Hexagonal plots of natural grass are tested for potential use in the Silverdome

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  1. Thank you for posting this! I remember the 1994 world cup. Though I was a broke university student unable to attend, it’s nice to know the background on this. I’m a huge soccer fan and it didn’t even occur to me all that would’ve gone on behind the scenes.

  2. Paul Cooper 2023-08-17 — 18:33

    As a former Pontiac resident this is very fascinating. However, I am surprised that U-Matic tape was used, when I think that the Betacam format was a comparable and superior platform for commercial and education productions. After seeing the original Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium get built in the 70’s, become the Silverdome when people hated the “PonMet” nickname that was being coined, and finally imploded a few years ago, stories like this help to fill in the historical gaps.

    • From what I have been seeing in the AV collections, the use of U-matic and of Betacam at MSU overlapped in early to mid 90s. I’m not sure either why Betacam was not chosen for this feature. I may have more footage related to this topic to share in the near future.

  3. How neat to see the modular units, and the footage of testing the surface. Thanks for posting!!

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