New hopes for old Tiger Stadium site: Detroit delegation backs proposal for youth facility
Detroit's state delegation is throwing its weight behind a new proposal to redevelop the old Tiger Stadium site as a youth baseball facility.
State Sen. Morris Hood III and 15 of his colleagues, in a letter sent to Mayor Dave Bing on Tuesday, urged him to sit down with Sen. Carl Levin and the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy to work out a transfer agreement for the parcel at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.
"Any shot in the arm the city can take right now is a positive, and the different avenues and ideas in this new endeavor could be great for the city of Detroit and Corktown," Hood told MLive.com.
The conservancy would use a $3.8 million federal earmark secured by Levin in 2008 to restore the playing field and potentially build a small museum recognizing the site's historical significance.
Leftover funds could be used for facade improvements and other beautification projects on Michigan Avenue and in the surrounding neighborhood.
"We're talking mainly about making sure kids have the opportunity to experience baseball," Hood said. "Baseball has done great for us in the past, getting inner city kids the chance to experience baseball, to learn baseball, to play baseball on a baseball field."
Mayor Dave Bing's press secretary confirmed that he received the letter and plans to draft a response in coming weeks. He is not prepared to offer public comment at this time.
Detroit, of course, is in the midst of a financial crisis. Some Council members have proposed closing all of the city's recreation centers, motivating Hood to send the letter this week.
The letter also was signed by State Sens. Tupac Hunter, Bert Johnson, Virgil Smith and Reps. Timothy Bledsoe, Fred Durhal Jr., Lisa Howze, Shanelle Jackson, David Nathan, John Olumba, Thomas Stallworth, Harvey Santana, Maureen Stapleton, Alberta Tinsley-Talabi, Rashida Tlaib and Jimmy Womack.
Levin secured the federal earmark in 2008 as preservationists sought to spare a portion of Tiger Stadium from demolition. The city eventually tore down the entire structure, leaving a vacant and poorly-secured lot in its wake.
Volunteers, calling themselves the Navin Field Grounds Crew in reference to the original name of what would later become Tiger Stadium, have assumed maintenance of the corner, trespassing on the city-owned lot to mow grass, pick up trash and make sure the field is fit for the occasional pickup game.
The conservancy, meanwhile, successfully submitted a grant application with the U.S. Department of Housing and Development last August allowing them to administer the Levin earmark.
But to date, the city has rejected any and all proposals for the site, arguing that its proximity to multiple freeways makes it a prime candidate for commercial development. Last year, the city even rejected an offer by Chevrolet to rehabilitate the field.
The conservancy would be content to lease the land, which would allow the city to reclaim it in the future, so long as they have the chance do something productive in the interim.
"We'd be happy to own the land, lease the land or do whatever," Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy President Thom Linn told MLive.com. "It's a shame that it's just laying fallow and growing weeds."