With the first proposed plan for the Tiger Stadium site that makes any sense, the city of Detroit is seeking bids for a mixed-use development that would maintain the historic playing field for youth baseball.
A major player is already involved: Detroit PAL, a nonprofit youth sports organization, has committed to building a 10,000-square-foot headquarters and maintaining the field where Ty Cobb patrolled the outfield and Al Kaline and Norm Cash wowed fans. The Detroit Economic Growth Corp. — which, under previous mayoral administrations, seemingly held a vendetta against any remnant of Tiger Stadium and tore down the historic grandstand despite federal funds available for rehab — has issued an RFP for a mixed-use development on the remainder 9.5 acres of the site, seeking bid for office space, retail, condos or apartments. From the Detroit Free Press:
By retaining youth baseball, the city’s new vision would honor the historic nature of the parcel, where baseball has been played for more than a century. Then, too, the mixed-use development would help satisfy the needs of the city’s Corktown district for new development, including new retail. And it would contribute to desperately needed new tax base for the city….
Tim Richey, CEO of Detroit PAL, a nonprofit profit that operates athletic and mentorship programs serving more than 11,000 of the city’s youths in partnership with the Detroit Police Department, said that talks to involve his organization with the site started last year.
“Operating the field was a dream come true for us,” he said Monday. “This offers the chance for Detroit kids to enjoy the corner and have the chance to play ball out there, on the same field where so many greats of baseball have played.”
Now, it happens that the Corktown area of Detroit is one of the city’s trendier neighborhoods. But this is a lesson as to why you don’t tear down something like Tiger Stadium unless there’s a replacement plan on the books. Let’s say Detroit had decided to keep the old Navin Field grandstand intact, as the late Ernie Harwell argued. You’d then begin the development of a youth-baseball facility with a historic, 100-year-old grandstand that could be converted to any number of uses; say, youth baseball on the ground floor and the playing field and big-buck condos (a la Indianapolis) on the top.
Above: The old Briggs Stadium grandstand after the rest of Tiger Stadium was demolished. Courtesy Ripken Design.
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