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Published: Thursday, 6/26/2008

Bottom of 9th for Detroit's Tiger Stadium, but fans hoping for a rally

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Tiger Stadium has not been used since the Tigers moved to Comerica Park in 2000. Tiger Stadium has not been used since the Tigers moved to Comerica Park in 2000.
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DETROIT - Venerable Tiger Stadium has eluded the wrecking ball for years.

But its days of being kept in one piece are limited.

Yesterday, as a Detroit fence company erected a temporary fence around the 1912 ballpark, utility companies cut off gas and electricity to the hallowed shrine - all in preparation for demolition.

Scott Veldhuis, a project manager for the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., which is executing the city's demolition plan, said he hopes portions of the historic stadium will fall within days.

"We don't have an exact day on that yet, but hopefully we're talking days [instead of weeks]," Mr. Veldhuis said.

Jim Cherry of Harper Woods, Mich., picks up a piece of the crumbling wall at Tiger Stadium, which is being readied for demolition. Jim Cherry of Harper Woods, Mich., picks up a piece of the crumbling wall at Tiger Stadium, which is being readied for demolition.
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Earlier this month, a demolition contract was finalized between the city of Detroit and a joint venture of the MCM Management Corp. and the Farrow Group, both Detroit-area companies. Mr. Veldhuis said control of the site was given to the demolition contractors, who are seeking permits to raze the stadium.

While it's clear at least some of the stadium at Michigan and Trumbull avenues is coming down - and soon - some of it may be preserved.

The same day the city approved a demolition contract, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick extended a deadline until Aug. 1 for the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy Group to save portions of the park.

Members of the conservancy group include Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell.

The group is trying to save the field and some of the stadium's features, including seats between first base and third base.

The conservancy group reportedly needs to raise $12 million to $15 million. It must present proof by the Aug. 1 deadline that the money can be raised.


Dan Williamson of Detroit puts caution tape on fencing outside the stadium.  Going to Tiger Stadium was going to a ballpark. Going to Comerica [Park] is like going to the mall,  he said. Dan Williamson of Detroit puts caution tape on fencing outside the stadium. Going to Tiger Stadium was going to a ballpark. Going to Comerica [Park] is like going to the mall, he said.
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"They presented viable options for funding to save that portion of the field," James Canning, a spokesman for Mr. Kilpatrick, said. "The mayor said if we have the opportunity to save a piece of Detroit history, we might as well try."

Members of the conservancy group could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Veldhuis said City Council has granted permission for demolition only of the other portions of Tiger Stadium, and would need to authorize razing the entire facility if Mr. Harwell's group falls short.

Mr. Veldhuis said if all of Tiger Stadium is demolished, requests for proposals will be sought to redevelop the 9 1/2-acre site.

Two heroes of the Tigers' 1968 World Series championship season said Tuesday night they had accepted their old ballpark - or at least some of it - was going away.

Willie Horton, an outfielder who grew up near the stadium and said he used to play outside its walls, said the rundown facility was likely a health hazard to maintain.

Former pitcher Mickey Lolich said he hoped some portion of the stadium can be salvaged.

"I realize old houses have to be torn down," Mr. Lolich said. "I hope they can leave something there that shows it was once Tiger Stadium."

For the second straight day, adults brought their young children to see the grand ol' stadium in one piece.

Amy DeLong, 41, of Troy took pictures of her two sons outside a former entrance on Trumbull Avenue. Behind the two boys were cracking walls, chipped paint, and other age marks from last century.

The Tigers last played there Sept. 27, 1999, and moved into Comerica Park the following season. The ballpark has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1989.

"This is something we should've done long before the stadium was in this state," Ms. DeLong said. "It's sad to see it like this."

Jim Griffioen, 31, of Detroit also brought his two children to the park and took pictures. "This is where I saw my first Tigers game," said Mr. Griffioen, who grew up in Kalamazoo, Mich. "My first Detroit experience was coming here to games."

Mr. Griffioen lives downtown. He questioned why the city wants to rid itself of a historic landmark.

"In a town full of beautiful, abandoned buildings, I don't understand why this one has to come down," he said.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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