Tiger Stadium set for wrecking ball again
What remains of Tiger Stadium could be demolished as soon as next month after a Detroit city commission voted to finish tearing down the historic ballpark.
Detroit’s Economic Development Corporation, which has worked with the city council to determine what to do with stadium, voted Tuesday to finish the demolition project and amend its previous contract to dismantle and recycle the scrap pieces of the structure. In so doing, the EDC rejected the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy’s plan to restore what was left of the stadium into a museum and playing field.
Demolition could begin in the next two weeks, according to the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.
Demolition began last summer and was set to completely tear down the stadium until the conservancy won Detroit City Council approval to keep part of it standing and allow time to come up with a plan to preserve it. What remains of the ballpark runs from dugout to dugout.
The conservancy hoped to renovate the lower deck and part of the upper deck into a historic exhibit along with commercial space and special event facilities. Once a deposit was submitted for buying the ballpark and paying for security at the location, a project plan and budget were submitted to the DEGC and given preliminary approval.
The dispute since then has been on financing a project estimated to cost $29 million. The conservancy submitted a plan March 1 that included a $3.8 million federal budget earmark, plus federal and state tax credits and private donations, such as from the Kresge Foundation in suburban Detroit. Since then, the conservancy has been trying to secure financial commitments and get other organizations involved, including the Tigers.
“We have extended deadlines for the conservancy to meet its commitments several times, yet the group is still far short of its targets,” said Waymon Guillebreaux, executive vice president for the DEGC in charge of project management and contract monitoring. “Meanwhile, security costs are continuing and demolition costs are rising again. We simply can’t afford to keep waiting when it is clear that the conservancy’s concept is not financially viable, nor will it be in the immediate future.”
Gary Gillette, a board member of the conservancy, disagreed.
“This action by the DEGC/EDC is completely unwarranted,” Gillette said. “It is unnecessary. It is short-sighted, and it’s foolish. While we have not met all of the goals that we originally talked about in our MOU with them, we are making substiantial progress, including anticipating receiving the $3.8 million Federal earmark that has been approved, including receiving funding and support from the Kresge Foundation, and including receiving approval from the state Historic Preservation Board for the amended listing to stay as a state historic site even with the partial demolition.
“For the city of Detroit — in the midst of the worst economic recession since World War II, and the day after GM filed for bankruptcy — to potentially forgo $20-plus million of development in Corktown at a cost of $0 to the city — since the city is not paying for maintenance and security, and since the money would come from state and federal tax credits, the federal earmark, and other sources — is literally crazy.”