Tiger Stadium Update
The Detroit City Council voted 5-4 Friday to approve Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s plan to demolish most of the historic baseball stadium, preserve the playing field, use one corner of the structure as a museum or community center, and build low-rise retail and residential on the rest of the site.
The council then created some legal confusion by refusing in a 6-3 vote to transfer ownership of the stadium to the public agency that would handle demolition. “If there’s no transfer, how can there be a project?” council member Kwame Kenyatta asked.
“We would have preferred that they transferred the property, but we think that any project we bring back will be successful,” he said, adding, “We’re moving ahead with demolition.”
Lobbying by fans of the ballpark, including Harwell’s plea to delay a vote until September, may have swayed some votes. Harwell said he would be willing to see partial demolition so long as some of the stadium was saved, possibly for a music-themed museum.
“The old stadium has stood there like a house by the side of the road for a long, long time,” Harwell said, adding, “I would urge the council not to move forward too quickly now.”
But backers of the mayor’s plan, including council member Sheila Cockrel, spoke in favor of immediate action. She noted that the mayor’s plan includes preserving the playing field for youth baseball.
“Our kids need clean, safe places to play,” she said, and added, referring to fans who want to keep the ballpark intact, “We could be held hostage by the dreams of adults.”
Council member Martha Reeves, who invited legendary Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell to address the council Friday, also voted in favor of the mayor’s plan but against the immediate transfer of title.
One of the lighter moments in the debate came when Sheila Cockrel and others urged Harwell to accept an invitation to sit on the board of the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy, a Corktown group that favors at least redevelopment of a corner of the stadium as a museum or community center.
Harwell, who is 89, said he would have to think about it.
“At my age, I don’t go to meetings much, and I don’t join anything,” he said.
The stadium at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, a revered site in baseball history, has been vacant since 1999. The Tigers moved to Comerica Park for the following season.