Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Un-Greening of Detroit: Artificial turf coming to site of historic Tiger Stadium? (Part 1 of 3)

LONG GONE? This 9-acre green space and quasi-public park on the site of
Detroit's historic Tiger Stadium could soon be replaced with artificial turf. (Tony Leja)

It's been an eventful year in the ongoing debate over the future of Navin Field, site of Detroit's historic Tiger Stadium

Despite the Navin Field Grounds Crew's five-year effort to transform the corner of Michigan and Trumbull from a weed-choked, garbage-strewn eyesore to a well-maintained baseball diamond and quasi-public park, the Detroit Police Athletic League is now poised to take over the site in 2016, with plans to limit public access and to tear out Navin Field's natural grass, replacing it with artificial turf.


This is not exactly a popular move.


In the first installment of our three-part series, we examine the recent controversy surrounding Navin Field, complete with video from Detroit City Council ...


PART 1

At a public hearing before Detroit City Council's Planning & Development committee on November 12, Detroit PAL CEO Tim Richey outlined his organization's plans to build its new headquarters on the Tiger Stadium site (aka Navin Field) and its intent to break ground in March of 2016.

"We're excited to develop a new headquarters for [the] Police Athletic League," Richey said.


As part of the proposed development in the heart of Corktown, Detroit's oldest neighborhood, Richey indicated that PAL plans to retain at least some of Navin Field's historic qualities.

"We were able to ... retain the full dimensions of the field," he said.


Detroit PAL CEO Tim Richey


"Home plate will stay where home plate historically has been. The flagpole will stay where the flagpole has been."

—Tim Richey, Detroit PAL






In the effort to build its new headquarters, PAL has enlisted the help of Kansas City-based architects Pendulum Studios, which plans to replace Navin Field's historically natural grass surface with a substance that the Detroit Tigers and Lions never played on in Corktown: artificial turf. 

Pendulum, it should be noted, is currently working with Rochester-based General Sports to construct a new ballpark in Utica, Michigan, called Jimmy John's Field
General Sports, headed by industry veteran Andy Appleby, recently decided on natural grass for Jimmy John's Field. 

PAL's architect, Pendulum Studios, is constructing a natural grass baseball diamond in suburban Utica. 


Dollars and sense


PAL CEO Tim Richey also announced to City Council on November 12 that his organization had $5.5 million committed toward its Kids at the Corner campaign, which is expected to cost a total of $15.4 million. 

Most of that money, the NFGC has learned, comes in the form of tax credits and grants from various foundations.

According to a memorandum of Detroit's Economic Development Corporation, PAL had until today to reach the $6 million mark. It was unclear at press time whether that milestone had been met.

Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy Chairman Thomas Linn told Council that the remaining $3 million of Senator Carl Levin's $3.8 million 2009 federal earmark could be tacked on to the $5.5 million PAL's supporters have already committed to the project. 

That earmark, Linn said, must be spent by Oct. 1, 2016.


"Our intention is to use the $3 million ... to help fund the restoration that Mr. Richey described," Linn said. 
"We're quite excited about the fidelity that PAL has shown in terms of the history of the site, the dimensions, the flagpole, and so forth."  

But most observers, including nationally acclaimed baseball writer Dan Epstein, author of the cult hit Big Hair & Plastic Grass, and NBC's Craig Calcaterra, argue that PAL's plans don't constitute a true restoration of the field.


OTSC Chairman Thom Linn


"We believe the use of the earmark is consistent with [Senator Levin's] intentions."   
—Thom Linn, Chairman, Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy




And while Linn commended PAL for its efforts, not everyone on the board of the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy is on board with artificial turf

In response to questioning from City Councilwoman Mary Sheffield, Detroit PAL CEO Tim Richey insisted that PAL had not yet made a decision on the type of playing surface to be used on the Tiger Stadium site. (That announcement would come later.)

Also appearing before the Planning & Development committee November 12 was developer Eric Larson, of Tiger Stadium Partners, who outlined his group's plans for an adjacent $35-million mixed-use retail and residential development along Michigan and Trumbull avenues, where Navin Field's predecessor, Bennett Park, stood from 1896-1911.


Defending their turf


During public comment, Michael Betzold, a former Detroit Free Press reporter and co-author of the definitive Tiger Stadium history Queen of Diamonds, attempted to put things in perspective for City Council.

"The way the field is now, it's a free, open, accessible community-events space that's entirely made possible by ... the Navin Field Grounds Crew and the efforts of Tom Derry, who was chased away by the cops when he first started mowing the place," Betzold said. "But he kept coming back 
 and if it wasn't for him, you wouldn't have a site worth talking about developing."

Betzold then posed an interesting question:

Michael Betzold
"Why doesn't the Navin Field Grounds Crew have a seat at this table?"  
—Tiger Stadium historian Michael Betzold



Despite the grounds crew's well-documented efforts to restore the historic ballfield, longtime NFGC member and community activist Adam Millikin was disappointed his group didn't have a seat at the big table. 

But in his limited time for public comment, Millikin made clear that the controversial crumb rubber infill in artificial turf does not constitute a healthy playing surface for Detroit's children. 


Adam Millikin

"When we found out that [PAL was] going to replace that historic, hallowed ground of grass with artificial turf, that's when we drew the line." 
—Adam Millikin, Navin Field Grounds Crew



Longtime Corktown resident and community leader Debra Walker also made a case for preserving the stadium site as a community green space.  

"The Corner represents a non-divisive opportunity," she said. "This isn't about a privileged community with massive amounts of green space in lieu of this site, this irreplaceable corner."

Debra Walker



"The Corner is where progress and preservation meet." 

—Debra Walker, Corktown Community Organization


Another longtime Corktown resident, Anthony O'Donnell, who owns a commercial building just steps away from home plate, expressed concern about public money being used for the PAL project and sought clarity on the controversial preservation issue from former U.S. Senator Carl Levin, whose 2009 $3.8 million earmark is still the topic of much discussion. 
Anthony O'Donnell

"I don't see any reason why we can't reach out to Senator Levin and ask him what he meant by historical preservation of the site."  
—Anthony O'Donnell, Corktown resident
 

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Planning & Development committee resolved to revisit the Navin Field land-transfer issue at their next session, which we'll cover in Part 2 of our three-part series. 

For an in-depth look at the November 12 land-transfer hearing, click on the video below:





Come back later this week for Parts 2 and 3 of our special report on the future of Navin Field, site of Detroit's historic Tiger Stadium.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Celebrate historic Navin Field Sunday, December 13


Join the Navin Field Grounds and the Detroit Men's Senior Baseball League Sunday afternoon for a spirited game of winter baseball at the site of historic Tiger Stadium.

Not only could this be the first baseball game ever played in December at "The Corner," it could also be the final hardball game ever played there on natural grass 

So bring your friends and family out to the Corner one final time in 2015 and help celebrate Detroit's historic Navin Field.


First pitch is at 1 p.m.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A letter to Detroit City Council

Nov. 18, 2015

Avanti Press, Inc
155 W. Congress Street
Detroit, MI 48226


Dear City Council,

It is my belief that the highest and best use for the Tiger Stadium site is for it to be preserved as a natural grass baseball field, true to its historic dimensions and as a public park.

A public park would be of greater value to the Corktown community and the city as a whole. It would be available to residents and could represent a huge opportunity for destination tourism on a national level. Just because someone may not have strong feelings for the site or care about the history that was made on that field, doesn't mean they can't appreciate the economic opportunities that exist because of that love and history. 

The world's great brands strive to create emotional connectivity, and the Tiger Stadium site has tons of it. The interest in a historically preserved field, and a well-considered development surrounding it, will draw attention from all over America. 

The Detroit PAL plan, in its current form, puts at risk possibly the top placemaking opportunity we have in Detroit today. 

With a less intensely programmed grass field, PAL could still use the Michigan & Trumbull site as a showcase for clinics and championship games — and they could still build their offices, clubhouse, and museum there. It could be a win, win, win, win — for the City of Detroit, PAL kids, Corktown businesses and residents, and for those who appreciate the irreplaceable opportunity we have in keeping it real.

Detroit comprises an area of 139 square miles, and a group of dedicated citizens passionately wants to preserve four acres of  grass because of its truly unique historic value. 

PAL does great work in our city, but there are many fields throughout Detroit that would benefit from their investment. Please recognize the once-in-a-lifetime preservation opportunity we have here that exists nowhere else in the country.

Thank you.


Rick Ruffner
President
Avanti Press, Inc
155 W. Congress Street
Detroit, MI 48226

Monday, November 23, 2015

A letter to the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy

November 23, 2015

Navin Field Grounds Crew
2121 Trumbull
Detroit, MI 48216

Thomas Linn
Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy
150 W. Jefferson # 2500 
Detroit, MI 48226
Mr. Linn,

As we have not received a response to our request for a meeting last week, we wish to reiterate that request.


As you know, tomorrow, Detroit City Council is scheduled to take up the Tiger Stadium (aka Navin Field) land-transfer issue.

We will be requesting that Council not transfer the land to the EDC without the stipulation that the field retain meaningful public access and natural grass.

Despite our five-year dedicated struggle to restore the field, we have not been formally approached for our input in its future. Still, the Navin Field Grounds Crew and its supporters stand ready to help Detroit PAL in its fundraising efforts.

We have a dedicated following nearly identical in size to PAL's, and they are arguably more engaged.
We, too, have friends and supporters in the corporate world who would prefer to see the ballpark remain a grass field. And we have yet to ask our backers for financial support, as we have traditionally been a grass-roots, volunteer group with no official nonprofit status.

That can change.
In fact, the paperwork is already in progress.

We have also met with local crowdfunding experts Patronicity to explore the possibilities of a fundraising campaign to benefit Navin Field and to offset the costs of maintaining natural grass. In the event that our financial support is not wanted at Navin Field, we will then use the money to restorehistoric Hamtramck Stadium, one of just six Negro Leagues ballparks still standing in America.

Ideally, we can do both.

As you know, since 2010, our group, led by head groundskeeper Tom Derry, has lovingly and painstakingly restored historic Navin Field at great personal expense and great personal sacrifice.
Without Mr. Derry's efforts, God only knows what would've become of Navin Field.

It's been a labor of love and the least we can do to help our hometown in its comeback.
We bring to your attention again this petition, Mr. Linn, signed by more than 2,500 people, asking that historic Navin Field retain its natural beauty.

As we've stated before, Detroit PAL's mission is an admirable mission and an honorable mission, one that we're happy to support. But we cannot support PAL's proposal to destroy historic Navin Field.

Our mission is your mission.
We have been true to ours, and we ask that you remain true to yours.

As you know, Senator Levin's 2009 federal earmark calls for the preservation and redevelopment of a public park.

Some might argue that the final dimensions and the flagpole constitute meaningful preservation.
But in our view, that's not nearly enough.

As I've stated before in the Metro Times, instead of overprogramming the site and subjecting the field to undue strain on its environmentally friendly natural grass, why not use Navin Field instead as a showcase field for special events and various Police Athletic League championships?

According to its website, PAL currently uses 37 fields throughout metro Detroit for baseball, softball, and football. Some are in good shape, while others are in need of an upgrade. With the help of our dedicated army of volunteers (and a substantial amount of reserves), the Navin Field Grounds Crew stands ready to help PAL maintain safe and healthy playing fields throughout the city.

Once its new headquarters are ready, PAL could continue to use these fields for practices and games while its student-athletes compete for a chance to play on Detroit's coveted field of dreams. 


PAL is understandably focused on programming for the kids, but the community also includes adults who deserve to have access to the historic site. It seems like a good plan for site usage should accommodate both. 

If the site is going to be redeveloped to benefit Detroit with public and private money — from the federal government, from tax subsidies, and from foundations — perhaps we should have a conversation about the appropriate mix of usage and the extent of the usage of the historic field.

As for artificial turf, no matter the brand, no matter the infill, the fact remains that it is plastic, a "lifeless eco-desert," according to Brandeis University professor Guive Mirfendereski and the managing editor of industry watchdog SynTurf.org

This is the last thing Detroit needs.

We also wish to bring to your attention that the costs of an artificial turf field are often misleading. (See this story in Forbes on how taxpayers often get fooled on the associated costs.)

After more than a year of research myself (far more than the LPD and PAL have conducted combined), I believe that Detroit PAL has been sold a bill of goods.

Well-meaning athletic programs all over America have been bamboozled by the synthetic turf industry into thinking plastic grass is lower maintenance and lower cost than a grass field.

We ask that you please go back to the drawing board, reconsider this entire proposal, and grant us a seat at the table so that we can discuss how we can further help the cause.  


Sincerely,

Dave Mesrey
Founding member
Navin Field Grounds Crew

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Underneath the colors

I've seen Cobb and Ruth 
roaming below
Shoeless Joe 
DiMaggio

Goslin, Cochrane
and Schoolboy Rowe
Dizzy and Medwick
and Murderers Row

I've seen Gehrig and Greenberg
the Bomber, the Bull
The Kid and Jackie Robinson
and a house that was full

Jimmy Brown 
and Bobby Layne 
Old Lem Barney 
and Night Train Lane

Yogi and Mickey
Gator and Cash
Don Wert's single
Kaline's mad dash

Lolich and Denny
Ozzie and Jake 
Old Frank Feneck
at the All-Star break

Seen Marvin
Sing the anthem
Feliciano in blue

It changed the game
and America, too

Saw Horton nail Brock
Dock Ellis in shock

Saw Chuck Hughes fall
Where Butkus stood tall

Saw The Bird in his roost
Saw Gibby and Goose

Sparky and Rozey
Trammell and Lou
Mandela and Rosa
Little Stevie, too

Then Fick hit the roof
and the lights went out
And the ballpark crumbled
and the weeds did sprout

I watched as the diamond
Grew riven with trash
The basepaths and outfield
Scattered with ash

But the weeds were cut
and the field restored
And the heavens opened
and the rains, they poured

Navin Field
Our bond is true
Through the years
No matter the hue

I was lean 
I was green
I grew rusty and blue

Like Harvey Kuenn
and Rod Carew

I am tall
I am frail

I am old
and I am grey

I am the flagpole
And I am all that remains

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Detroit City Council to decide fate of historic Navin Field Tuesday Nov. 24

CALLING ALL SUPPORTERS OF NAVIN FIELD!

This is your last chance to ask Detroit City Council to do the right thing: 

To preserve a public park at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, site of historic Tiger Stadium. 

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24, on the 13th Floor of the CAYMAC (aka the City County Building), the full nine-member Detroit City Council will discuss the transfer of the Tiger Stadium site, (a.k.a. Navin Field) to the Detroit Economic Development Corporation.


This historic ballpark, lovingly restored by the volunteers of the Navin Field Grounds Crew since 2010, now sits on the verge of destruction. 

Please let City Council know how important it is to preserve this beautiful, historic green space in the heart of Detroit's oldest neighborhood. We encourage you to focus not on the history of the site, but on the health and safety of our children and the health of our environment. 


Detroit doesn't need nine acres of lush, green grass torn apart and replaced with nine acres of plastic. (That's not preservation. That's demolition.)


It is CRITICAL that we get a good turnout on the 24th, so please join us to show your support for real grass and the preservation of a public park (as called for in Senator Carl Levin's $3.8 million earmark).


If you cannot attend in person, we ask that you please contact Detroit City Council, as well as Senator Carl Levin's office and Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy Chairman Thomas Linn, to express your concern over the fate of Navin Field ... before it's long gone:


We ask that you voice your respect for Detroit PAL

PAL's mission is an admirable mission and an honorable mission, one we can all support. But we simply cannot support their idea of destroying historic Navin Field and replacing it with artificial turf.



Suggested email subject line:


"Please keep the grass at old Tiger Stadium"

**Scroll down for suggested petition language.**



WHO TO CONTACT:


Former U.S. Senator Carl Levin 

via Angela Madar 
amadar@honigman.com
313-465-7000, ext. 7949
Twitter: @SenCarlLevin 

Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy
Chairman Thom Linn
Linn@MillerCanfield.com
313-496-7511


Detroit Planning Director Maurice Cox
via Keinya Carter
CarterK@detroitmi.gov

313-224-1421

Detroit Economic Growth Corporation
CEO Rodrick Miller
Miller@degc.org
Twitter: @RodrickMiller

313-237-4602

DETROIT CITY COUNCIL

President Brenda Jones

bjones_mb@detroitmi.gov

Stephen Grady, Ms. Jones' Chief of Staff

GradyS@detroitmi.gov
313-224-1245

Councilman Gabe Leland

LelandG@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-2151

Councilwoman Mary Sheffield

CouncilMemberSheffield@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-4505

Councilman Scott Benson

BensonS@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-1198

Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-López

councilmemberraquel@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-2450  


Councilwoman Janeé Ayers
councilmemberayers@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-4248

Councilman George Cushingberry

cushingberryg@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-4535

Councilman James Tate

councilmembertate@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-1027

Councilman Andre Spivey

CouncilmanSpivey@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-4841 

WHAT TO SAY:
(feel free to add your own comments)

Dear _______________________,


I’m writing to respectfully request that if the City is going to transfer the Tiger Stadium site, aka Navin Field, to the Economic Development Corporation, that it remain a natural grass field, with meaningful public access.


Not only would a natural-grass playing field honor the ballpark’s illustrious history, it would also help protect Detroit’s fragile environment.


But most importantly, it would help to ensure a safe and healthy playing field for our children.


It's well-known that real grass results in fewer and less severe injuries than artificial turf. And with the safety of artificial turf still very much in question, even those fields with alternative infills, I’m urging you to err on the side of caution.


Please protect and preserve this historic ballpark as a green space in the heart of Corktown.

For our kids, for our community, and for our environment.

For more information, please visit tinyurl.com/SaveTheGrassAtTigerStadium,
tinyurl.com/GrassIsGreenerDetroitand tinyurl.com/KeepDetroitGreen.


Sincerely,


___________________________________


Monday, November 9, 2015

City Council hearing Nov. 19 on the future of Navin Field, site of historic Tiger Stadium

CALLING ALL SUPPORTERS OF NAVIN FIELD!

Come voice your support at Detroit City Council Thursday, November 19, for the preservation of a public park at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, site of historic Tiger Stadium.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, on the 13th Floor of the CAYMAC (aka the City County Building), Detroit City Council will discuss the transfer of the Tiger Stadium site, (a.k.a. Navin Field) to the Detroit Economic Development Corporation.

This will be your only chance to let Council know how important it is to preserve this beautiful, historic green space in the heart of Detroit's oldest neighborhood. (You'll have one to two minutes to speak your piece, so come armed with compelling stories of "The Corner."

**We encourage you to focus not on the history of the site, but on the health and safety of our children and the health of our environment. Detroit does not need nine acres of lush, green grass torn apart and replaced with nine acres of plastic.**

(That's not preservation. That's demolition.)

It is CRITICAL that we get a good turnout on the 19th, so please join us to show your support for real grass and the preservation of a public park (as called for in Senator Carl Levin's $3.8 million earmark).

We ask that you voice your respect for Detroit PAL. PAL's mission is an admirable mission and an honorable mission, one we can all support. But we simply cannot support their idea of destroying historic Navin Field.

Please share this event with your friends and family and all supporters of green spaces and public parks to speak up and speak out.

In the meantime, we ask that you please contact Detroit City Council by phone or by email to express your concern over the fate of Navin Field ... before it's long gone:


DETROIT CITY COUNCIL

President Brenda Jones
bjones_mb@detroitmi.gov

Stephen Grady, Ms. Jones' Chief of Staff
GradyS@detroitmi.gov
313-224-1245

Councilman Gabe Leland
LelandG@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-2151

Councilwoman Mary Sheffield

CouncilMemberSheffield@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-4505

Councilman Scott Benson
BensonS@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-1198

Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-López
councilmemberraquel@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-2450 
Janeé Ayers
councilmemberayers@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-4248

Councilman George Cushingberry

cushingberryg@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-4535

Councilman James Tate

councilmembertate@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-1027

Councilman Andre Spivey
CouncilmanSpivey@detroitmi.gov
(313) 224-4841 


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tiger Stadium community meeting Wednesday Oct. 28



The future of Navin Field hangs in the balance

Please join us Wednesday, October 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Come join the public discussion on:

• public access 
• artificial turf vs. natural grass
• retail and residential development
• and more

Representatives will be on hand from the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy, the Navin Field Grounds CrewDetroit PAL, and Tiger Stadium Partners.

So mark your calendars for Wednesday, October 28.
We hope to see you there.
________________________________________________________
IBEW Local 58 is located at 1358 Abbott St, in historic Corktown.