Old Tiger Stadium to be torn down

Old Tiger Stadium to be torn down

Six years after the Detroit Tigers left Tiger Stadium, it finally appears set to come down.

The City of Detroit and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation revealed plans Friday to tear down most of the old ballpark and redevelop the area just southwest of downtown. It marks the first definite plans to seal the fate of the historic stadium, which opened on the same day as Boston's Fenway Park -- April 20, 1912 -- and closed to Major League Baseball in 1999.

As part of the plans, according to reports in both the Detroit News and Free Press, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and the DEGC are endorsing a conceptual plan that would convert the area into mixed-use development, combining residential and retail property, while preserving the field and parts of the ballpark.

Tiger Stadium's fate has been a subject of much debate since the Tigers moved into Comerica Park in 2000. While preservationists wanted to save the ballpark in some form, either converting it into a museum or keeping it as a sports venue for Minor League baseball or other sports, others pointed to the condition of the stadium and said it was time to tear it down and move on.

For years, the middle ground was to do nothing, which is what happened to the stadium. It has not hosted a sporting event since some college games took place soon after the Tigers moved out. It remained locked, guarded and unused for years.

It was opened once more this past winter, when Budweiser held its two-day Bud Bowl party prior to the Super Bowl. The parties and concerts took place under a tent erected on the field, rather than in the stands.

Soon after that, reports began to circulate that the city planned to dismantle the ballpark in some form. What would happen to the area, however, remained a mystery until details of the plan emerged.

The residential/retail plan is one of many that have been proposed for the ballpark. Submitted by the Greater Corktown Development Corporation, it would keep the playing field as a space for Little League baseball and other community events, while preserving the dugouts and other parts of the stadium.

A group of engineers and architects are expected to look at the ballpark and figure out which parts of it can be saved and renovated for public use. Those areas and the field would be maintained under a non-profit conservancy.

What isn't saved will be taken down, which could become one way to fund the demolition and non-profit part of the project, should seats and other items prove both salvageable and saleable. A potential auction would likely come in the fall. Demolition would not be like the spectacular implosions that have befallen most stadiums, most recently Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium a few years ago.

More specific plans for the residential-retail project are expected to come from the DEGC. Until bids are awarded and developers determined, no cost has officially been tagged to the project.

The idea is being touted as the best way to preserve as much of the historic stadium as feasible, while developing the land in a way that benefits the community at large.

The idea of a set fate for Tiger Stadium at long last is expected to produce mixed emotions for the fans and players who were there. Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't have particular sentiment about it. He never managed there but attended some games.

"It's not the stadium," Leyland said. "It's the memories and the people you were involved with that make it special."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.