Tiger tale 

The Detroit News ran a long story about what now appears to be the imminent demise of Tiger Stadium. The front-page piece by Joel Kurth and David Josar spent a lot of ink quoting city officials who claim there have been no realistic proposals to redevelop "The Corner" and that, consequently, there's nothing left to do but demolish the historic structure.

We're not the only ones who thought the News badly erred on this one. In a letter to the editor, which she shared with News Hits, Karen Elizabeth Bush of Rochester — a longtime backer of reusing the fabled stadium — wrote, "I read today's Tiger Stadium story with interest. However, I regret that your investigative reporters were so willing to accept what the city has told them."

She went on to detail legitimate development efforts that were shunted aside. The letter, as far as Bush can tell, never appeared in the paper.

But the article's slant dovetailed nicely with a News editorial that ran a few days later. That opinion piece declared: "Seven years of striking out on development deals clearly shows the stadium can't be saved. It's time to tear down Tiger Stadium."

As Bush pointed out, what was particularly pathetic about the News' reporting was the short shrift given to attempts by legitimate developers to make something happen at the site, which has been in limbo since the Tigers moved to their new digs at Comerica Park at the end of the 1999 season. Since then the facility has been mothballed, with the Tiger's organization being paid upward of $400,000 a year to guard and maintain the place. But the maintenance fund supplying that windfall — a total of $2.5 million collected through ticket surcharges at the old stadium — is about to run dry.

Critics have long howled that the plan all along was to drain the fund — putting a lot of cash into the pockets of Little Caesars pizza magnate Mike Ilitch — and then, once it was exhausted, move to demolish.

Back in 2003, when this rag investigated the whole mess, we reported that serious attempts to develop the site — projects that would retain at least part of the historic structure as their anchor — were consistently stymied by first the Archer and then Kilpatrick administrations. Although a smoking gun has never been produced, the speculation has long been that nothing was happening at the corner because the politically powerful Ilitches didn't want any action there, at least not anything that provided competition, be it minor league baseball or a concert venue. As then-Detroit City Council President Maryann Mahaffey told us back in 2003, "I think what the Ilitches want to see is Tiger Stadium torn down."

A few months later, MT columnist Jack Lessenberry wrote that everybody knows that Tiger Stadium could be used to "get some excitement going and generate revenue for Detroit, which needs money desperately.

"Everybody also knows that the Macedonian Monarch would hate that, and so nothing happens, and the city pays Mike the Impaler of Dreams another $400,000 a year to cut the grass at an abandoned stadium the city actually owns."

"But the not-so secret real plan," Lessenberry declared, "is that someday before too long, Detroit will deem the stadium beyond saving. Then it will be torn down, and Corktown will have a parking lot."

So the real story has been out there for a while now. And, just to prove that News Hits can be as objective as the next hack (c'mon, stop your laughing), we want to throw some props the way of News columnist Neal Rubin, who cast off his paper's party line in a piece that appeared Sunday. Rubin effectively demolished the argument that the city seriously considered redeveloping the stadium by reporting on the attempts made by Harry Glans — co-founder of Capital Mortgage Funding in Southfield and a guy with access to some big bucks. Glans, according to Rubin, twice called Kilpatrick's office to talk about redeveloping the stadium, but never heard back.

As Rubin wrote, "He's the kind of guy you get back to if you ever had any intention of doing something with Tiger Stadium besides blowing it up."

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