It's hard to believe that it's been almost 10 years since the last game was played at Tiger Stadium. It's even harder to believe that its fate is not yet set in stone.
While selective dismantling has begun on the building's northeast corner, the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy (OTSC) is still working to save "The Corner" and, perhaps most importantly, the field.
There have been lots of news stories about the ballpark over the years; recently, the focus has been on its demo and an Aug. 1 deadline for the OTSC to raise funds to preserve its corner. Much of the scuttlebutt I hear focuses on how quiet this organization has been amongst all the shouting. "What are they doing?" "How will they raise the money?" That sort of thing.
The truth is that lots of really good, positive stuff has been happening, mostly under the radar.
There has been board-building: We have state Rep. Steve Tobocman, Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell, Southwest Detroit Business Association President Kathy Wendler, Wallace Riley (past president of the American Bar Association), southwest Detroit coach Steve Benavides, Dan Varner of Think Detroit/PAL and numerous other passionate, talented and connected folks at the table.
So now we are at a place where we feel comfortable going public with our plans. (You can see renderings and download a plan at our website, savetigerstadium.org.) It's so not fluff. We've worked with Hamilton Anderson and Associates (architecture), Ripken and Associates (programming), Team Detroit (Web design and marketing) and Zachary and Associates (project finance) to make this thing real.
The simple explanation of what we want to do with the preserved portion of the stadium (dugout to dugout, essentially) is to have youth baseball played on the field, display baseball memorabilia, have banquet and retail space and, of course, some room devoted to the history of the stadium itself.
The other parcels that the partial teardown of the stadium leave open for development would be put out to bid by the Detroit Economic Growth Corp.
The main key to the $15 million project is the securing of funds from the federal government. Sen. Carl Levin, long an ally of those seeking redevelopment of the stadium, has submitted an earmark request and is confident that he will be bringing home some bacon this summer for the project.
The bulk of the rest of the money will come from foundations and the remainder from the hoi polloi (that's you and me and most everyone we know).
And why should you care?
This project is essential to the redevelopment of Corktown, Detroit's oldest neighborhood and one that is thriving despite a preponderance of vacant lots and two monstrous vacant structures. (Take a wild guess at what number two is after the stadium. If you answer anything other than the abandoned train station, you clearly haven't been to Corktown in, oh, about 20 years or so.) Plus, it is an opportunity to do something that no other city in the United States has done: preserve a meaningful portion of a historic ballpark.
Really, it's the perfect storm of historic preservation, recreational opportunity and economic development.
What can you do to help us in the short term?
First, check out our website, read about OTSC, look at our plans for the stadium and, if you feel so inclined, make an online donation. We are not looking for big bucks at all — more like $5 or $25. This part of our campaign is about number of supporters more than number of dollars.
You can also mark your calendar for Thursday, July 17. That's when we will be hosting a fund-raiser at the venerable Anchor Bar from 6:30 to 10 p.m. There will be some music and a chance to talk with board members. The full $10 cover will go to OTSC.Kelli B. Kavanaugh is secretary of the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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