Where Do Old Ballparks Go When They Die?

Detroit can't decide whether to blow up the old Tiger Stadium in order to make room for new development or to renovate the old stadium.
by | July 18, 2007 AT 3:00 AM

Tigers Detroit can't decide whether to blow up the old Tiger Stadium in order to make room for new development or to renovate the old stadium for use as -- surprise! -- a minor league baseball stadium.

I don't really know enough about this issue to comment, so here I go:

On the one hand, the folks supporting renovation of the stadium for use as a minor league park just don't seem to be thinking with their fiscal caps on. Renovating and maintaining a big old building takes a lot of money. And I imagine even more so for a building that was constructed in 1912. The stadium has been unused since 1999 and has cost the city over $4 million.

Even if future maintenance money was falling from the sky, the return Rock City would get on a minor league team in the same city as a major league team would likely be tiny. In fact, I can't think of a similar situation off the top of my head, with the sole exception of the Brooklyn Cyclones -- which play way out in Coney Island and properly fall under New York-exceptionalism.

I've never been to Tiger, but I've often been to Wrigley (Chicago's historic park) and I can't shake the feeling that the historic value of the structure -- the sense of place in the place -- has everything to do with the team playing in it. Ontologically speaking, would it still be Tiger Stadium without the Detroit Tigers?

That said, the development plan, as it stands now, leaves a lot to be desired.

As a matter of fact, the present plan seems to be demolish the stadium and then come up with a plan. The logic being that more developers and financing will come out of the woodwork if the space is tabula rasa,so to speak. And given the political backlash to the demolition, thatlogic might have some merit: what developer would want to buy in andthen deal with preservation society politics?

Still, I'm sure people in Detroit would have an easier time blowing up the old ballpark if they were sure that funky new developmentwould soon take its place. That sentiment should also carry some weightwith every other city with a stadium or considering a stadium.Someday--maybe 95 years from now, maybe sooner--thestadium will be an old hunk of concrete and brick, the neighborhoodwill have a supersaturation of bars and vendor storefronts, and asurfeit of available parking will make it all seem a wasteland.

Detroit city council's vote about what to do could come today.

Will Wilson | Former Correspondent | willbwilson@gmail.com