This summer, the cash-strapped city should decide whether to demolish the ballpark that once housed baseball immortals but lately has become a symbol of the city’s political and economic failures.
By month’s end, a $400,000 annual stipend to pay for maintenance of the stadium will expire. Detroit officials say they’ve yet to see a realistic plan to reuse it and acknowledge they’ve already formed plans to disassemble the stadium and auction all its contents, from steel beams to seats.
The city is still accepting proposals for the property, but they now must detail what would be built on the parcel once the stadium comes down, Jackson said. Big-box stores are a possibility, but the city prefers projects that have retail and residential uses.
Since the Tigers moved to Comerica Park in 2000, the city has paid the team’s owner, Mike Ilitch, an estimated $2.5 million for maintenance and security at the old park. The money comes from a surcharge placed on Tiger Stadium tickets, but those funds run out at the end of March — a further hindrance to redevelopment.
Numerous plans have come and gone since the park– opened five days after the Titanic sank in 1912 — closed Sept. 27, 1999.
Some sounded grand. Most weren’t feasible or lacked financing, Rottach said.
“We didn’t want it to be used as a flea market or for bullfighting,” he said. “Some of the ideas were on the outer edges. Many ideas were great, but when we pressed, there was no money.”
Among the plans: Concerts, soccer games, lofts, shopping courtyards and serious consideration by the Canadian Football League to put a franchise in the stadium.
Two proposals emerged as front-runners, but fizzled after negotiations with the city: A plan by a St. Louis developer to retool the stadium into lofts and rentals; and a separate proposal to use the space for a sports, residential and office complex featuring condos, stores, a scaled-down baseball diamond and volleyball courts.
The reality: The very features that make Tiger Stadium so beloved — its age and unique shape, crooks and crannies — make it impractical to rehab, said Jeff Hausman, president of the Michigan chapter of American Institute of Architects.
“You’re talking two, three or even four times the cost of building new,” he said.