Sunday, August 3, 2008


After so much talk about the impending demolition of Tiger Stadium, some of us at Detroit Army couldn't help ourselves. We had to check out for ourselves what was taking place at Michigan and Trumbull and what we found was more than what we bargained for.

There were about 50 eager onlookers taking pictures and catching their last glimpses of the stadium at the corner. Most of the left field bleachers were torn out and a fence surrounded the stadium with a green tarp wrapped around it so that gawkers were unable to see through. The tarp had a specific purpose, but that didn't stop overzelous fans from attempting to rip holes through it to gain a better perspective. With everything going on, the lone security guard at the corner had his hands full. I stopped to talk to the guard and asked him if this might be the most annoying security job that he's ever been a part of. He wholeheartedly agreed with the assessment without missing a beat.

Detroiters can be both stupid, and over the top, and when you mix that with the demolition of a Detroit landmark, the end result is entertaining to say the least. The security guard told me that a couple days earlier one guy tried to hop the fence surrounding the stadium with a running start. Needless to say, the stunt backfired and the fence jumper ended up stuck on top of the fence with steel rods lodged in his stomach. Apparently the guard had to pull him off before the ambulance came, but not before he asked the guy who at this point was screaming in pain whether the failed attempt at trying to be smart was worth it. I never heard anything about this incident in the Free Press or the News, so I can't vouch for its accuracy, but I'm choosing to believe that the story was rooted in truth. Its funnier that way.

After talking to the security guard, we proceeded to walk up the ramp to the bridge that crosses over the Fischer Freeway so that we could get the best shots of the partially torn apart stadium. Plenty of other onlookers had taken this route as well and most conversations tended to contain one person waxing poetic about the great stadium with the other nodding in agreement. A guy named Bill stood on the bridge selling pictures of Tiger Stadium that he supposedly took from a helicopter two weeks before demolition began. I wasn't able to ascertain what his credentials were and how he had access to a helicopter, but the shot he was selling was impressive because it was taken from the Northeast looking down over the stadium towards the Southwest which is an angle you usually don't see as most photographers choose to shoot from the opposite angle so as to see downtown in the background.

Bill had a good schtick. He was only selling the photos so that people would "have something to remember the stadium by." I'm sure it had nothing to do with the hundreds of nostalgic fans that pass through each day, including myself, who have no problem parting with five dollars for the photo. Actually, the security guard told me later that Bill usually sells the photos for ten dollars on game days. Looks to me like Bill is turning a substantial profit on a photo that is unclear as to whether he took it, and even if he did, when the photo was taken. Good for him.

After taking multiple pictures of my own from different angles through the wide open hole in the left field wall, I proceeded to walk back to my car where more and more enthusiasts continued to make their way to the stadium. On my way out I noticed three blue collar guys working together to get the best photos possible. One guy stood on a ladder in order to see over the fence with a professional looking camera, while the other two handled the different lenses and anchored the ladder which was less than sturdy. I tried to take a picture of the three everymen clumsily trying to take photos from above the fence, but as I looked through my digital camera to take the picture I was greeted with a less than friendly "You better not be taking a picture of me." I asked him if he was being serious and he looked at me like he was ready to take my head off. Needless to say, I wasn't able to capture the moment.

In all seriousness though, I left Tiger Stadium not with a feeling of nostalgia, but instead with a feeling of wasted opportunity. This demolition should have happened almost ten years ago when the stadium was abandoned in the first place. While there was not, and for that matter still is not a plan in place regarding what to do with the space at Michigan and Trumbull, a quick teardown of the stadium would have allowed the surrounding Corktown neighborhood to move on from its former Tiger Stadium centered past and possibly re-develop the area for the future. The fact that it's been standing without tenants for so long says something about the speed with which city leaders moved forward.

The city, along with the stadium, deserved better treatment. To leave Tiger Stadium deteriorating at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull for 9 years without any real action was counter productive. Too many times this city doesn't take the efficient road, and how this situation was handled is a great example of that inefficient mentality.

While I can only dream that this can be a lesson for the future, I'm not going to hold my breath. What's important now is that Tiger Stadium is finally coming down and although I sincerely hope the Tiger Stadium Conservancy finds a way to come up with the necessary funds so that part of the stadium can be saved, whether they do or they don't, demolition is not only necessary, but already 9 years late. Corktown is on the rise, and once Tiger Stadium's deconstruction is finished, the neighborhood can fully move forward. The huge hole where the left field bleachers once were is not a travesty as many have proclaimed, but instead long overdue progress and finally a first step in the right direction.

Below is a sampling of photographs taken at Tiger Stadium on August 2 during the early stages of demolition. A link to the entire Flickr set is also included.

Tiger Stadium Demolition Flickr Set

Detroit Army

1 comment:

Cassie said...

I was there while they were doing that. I remember when I was a little girl going to the games. Its going to be sad because my children wont be able to go there and see it. But I do have a brick from it. I stole it for my daddy's birthday.