TigerFest put on hiatus for one year

TigerFest put on hiatus for one year

TigerFest put on hiatus for one year
DETROIT -- Progress usually takes time. Sometimes, it takes more than that. This is one of those times for the Tigers at Comerica Park, which is about to get some improvements for 2012.

While Tigers fans can look forward to an improved ballpark atmosphere next season, including upgrades to the enormous left-field scoreboard, the work required to get it done is going to take some patience through the long Michigan winter. Much as the Tigers hoped they could go ahead with TigerFest through it all, it has now become clear they can't hold it at their home. As a result, the club is putting its annual winter warmup event on a one-year hiatus, though their Winter Caravan will still go on as planned.

Tickets for TigerFest, which would've been scheduled for Jan. 21, normally would have gone on sale around this time. It was a difficult decision for the Tigers, who have sold out the event every January for the past several years. But the combination of ballpark construction work and a busy weekend for facilities around Metro Detroit left them out of options.

TigerFest moved to Comerica Park in 2007 and has been a sellout event ever since. It was a bold move to try to hold the event in a largely outdoor facility during the heart of winter, and it has had its share of bone-chilling days along the way. The Tigers have made it work by using most of the available indoor areas in the park, save for the suites and press box, while covering and heating large parts of the concourse.

When it all comes together, there isn't much room to spare.

"The intention was to hold a TigerFest in 2012," Tigers vice president of communications Ron Colangelo said, "but it became apparent there were going to be space limitations. And when we realized there would be safety concerns, we decided it was in the best interest to postpone the event."

The upgrades to Comerica Park are among the biggest since it opened in 2000. The Tigers opened a new retail store called "The D Shop" last spring, and retail sales jumped 26 percent over the previous year. The success earned the team recognition as MLB's Club Retailer of the Year.

Details on the scoreboard upgrades are expected to be announced soon. The scoreboard is largely the same as when the ballpark opened, and has shown its age at times over the last few years.

At the same time, new scoreboards, including huge video boards and improved graphics, have had major effects on ballparks around the Majors. A giant video board and LED scoreboard was one of the highlights of a massive renovation of Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City before the 2009 season, and helped modernize one of baseball's older ballparks. The Phillies updated their scoreboard last offseason with an HD board that stands as the National League's largest.

Working on as large of a scoreboard as Comerica Park -- still one of the biggest in the big leagues -- takes up space and time around the ballpark for new parts and the equipment to install them. That's where the Tigers, who have held a fanfest event for about the last 15 years, encountered challenges, then concerns.

Joe Louis Arena housed TigerFest for four years before the event moved to Comerica Park. However, the Red Wings are at home there for games on back-to-back Saturdays, Jan. 14 and 21, around the weekends TigerFest normally takes place. Cobo Center hosts the North American International Auto Show from Jan. 14-22, and the Lions' chances to make the playoffs leaves Ford Field a possibility for football games in January.

The Tigers Winter Caravan, which was in the planning stages well before TigerFest came into question, will take place on Jan. 19-20 and include several stops around metro Detroit with most of the Tigers' roster expected to attend. That schedule should be released in the coming weeks. Planning for the caravan is completely separate from TigerFest, and the Tigers don't plan on extending the caravan to Jan. 21.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.