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

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.  


Dave Mesrey
Founding member
Navin Field Grounds Crew


  1. The Navin Field Grounds Crew has earned a voice in the in the discussion of how we are going to “preserve” The Corner. They have been heroic in their efforts. The NFGC has taken a weeded, neglected eyesore and single handedly created an attraction that draws people from all around the city, the state and the nation. These folks have put their money, time and sweat in to a project that the city was unable and unwilling to do. They have proven to all that they are people of integrity and dedication. That truth cannot be disputed.

    While I have great respect for the mission of PAL, I believe that they are absolutely wrong in insisting that the field must be covered with acres of plastic. Mr. Linn, you know it is wrong. A turf field will have to be protected in a way that will keep the community off the field. It will be fenced, it will be guarded. We will not be allowed to walk our dogs or to have a catch or to take a few swings. Plastic grass is a very bad idea.

    The NFGC has pledged to continue to help maintain the beautiful grass field at Michigan and Trumbull. They have a track record that makes this a commitment that can be believed. They can be counted on to follow through. The past several years are proof of that. They have a track record. They can be believed.
    Mr. Linn, please meet with representatives of the Navin Field Grounds Crew. They have earned your ear.

    Tom Craft

    1. This is a version of what I sent to Mr. Linn.

  2. Can’t believe you have put it so well that even a newbie like me can understand it. Many many thanks.

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