By: Kurt Snyder
After 16 years, Detroit has finally figured out what to do with the site of Tiger Stadium. The Police Athletic Club has come to the rescue.
For almost half of the last 16 years, the Old Girl sat there alone, forgotten, rotting. It was an albatross sitting, awaiting its fate, while the home team played baseball just a few short blocks away at Comerica Park.
It wasn’t until 2008, that the city finally began tearing the place down. I remember taking my dad down to the site to take a last look at his “house”, before there was nothing left to look at any longer.
It was odd to say the least. Things had come full circle for him. After a 46 year career that culminated with his abrupt firing on the day Mike Ilitch bought the team, he was back at the place he had called home. He had managed Tiger Stadium for almost 23 years. So it had become a part of him.
We parked across the street in a vacant lot where the Press Box bar used to be. He said very little. We peaked through the fence. I took a couple pictures. But I took none of him. It was not a happy moment. After maybe 15 minutes, he said to me, “Well, wanna go get a Coney Island?”
That was it. There were no other words. No nostalgic conversation. Nothing. And then we left. I felt bad for him. But he needed to see it. He needed to close the book on a very huge and consuming chapter of his life.
You know the rest of the story. The site has been sitting vacant ever since. People have visited. But it’s been just a field and a flag pole, with no future plan until now.
It has been pitiful really. Detroit has, to this point, disrespected one of the most historic parts of the city. And I could not be happier that they have finally decided to do something with the property that will at least keep the memory alive.
It could have become anything. A Target. A parking garage. Anything. But thankfully the Detroit Police Athletic Club has come up with something very tasteful. There will still be a field there. Games will be played there. And it’s fitting that it will be mostly kids roaming the hallowed grounds.
The site will include a new youth sports facility and headquarters for the Police Athletic League, with a portion of the development fittingly called, The Corner. “This will be a field of dreams that will inspire kids for generations to come,” former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin said.
It certainly was a place that inspired me throughout my childhood watching hundreds of games at the old ballpark. So providing a place there for kids to actually play the game is an idea that I believe is fitting.
There is only one small issue that I had hoped they would preserve, and it’s not the grass field which may surprise many of you. Nope, it would have been very cool if they kept the dimensions of the field; but it doesn’t appear that they will.
But at this point, I won’t grasp for straws. It will be a great place to go and visit, to remember Tiger Stadium. Baseball will still be alive there, just not the way many had hoped.
Hopefully future stars will be fostered on that field; a place where so many Hall of Famers made memories before them.
So thankfully, The Corner will stay The Corner, and finally, maybe, people will stop calling it Old Tiger Stadium. Sadly, they never built a new one.