Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Detroit PAL loses key supporter over its handling of Tiger Stadium situation

Lear Corporation withdraws annual $50,000 contribution to Police Athletic League, cites concerns over player safety and historic preservation.

As readers of this site know, Detroit City Council recently gave the green light to the Detroit Police Athletic League and its proposal for a new artificial-turf development on the site of historic Tiger Stadium.

While there's good reason to celebrate this new era and the fact that Detroit's schoolchildren will continue to use this historic site for baseball, football, and other sports, it's also a critical time to carefully consider the safety of Detroit's student-athletes.

With more and more high-school turf-related football deaths in the news (Chicago) (Seattle) (New York), it's imperative that we protect our student-athletes, as well as our history and our environment

Detroit PAL's mission is an honorable mission, and we should all support their efforts to enrich the lives of Detroit's student-athletes. But we should also hold their leadership accountable not only for the players' safety, but also for preserving the historic stadium site they stand to inherit.

"Our kids deserve this new facility," goes the old argument. But when that facility's artificial turf factors into a player's death, it puts high-school football and its shiny new athletic complexes in perspective.

The Tiger Stadium site hasn't hosted a football game since 1974. If it is to be used for football again, it's critical that we take precautions to avoid this kind of tragedy in Detroit. 

Despite a $3 million federal earmark from U.S. Senator Carl Levin that calls for the preservation of the site, Detroit PAL insists it is instead moving forward with its controversial plan to tear out the grass at old Tiger Stadium so that it can install artificial turf on the historic site.

This does not sit well with at least one prominent supporter of PAL. 

With an annual contribution of $50,000 to Detroit PAL's programs, the Lear Corporation has been a major benefactor of the nonprofit for years. But in light of PAL's controversial plan to redevelop the Tiger Stadium site with artificial turf, Lear's CEO is speaking out.

Matthew Simoncini says that Lear is withdrawing its financial support of PAL for its mishandling of this delicate issue.

"I believe the [PAL] plan is severely flawed [and] a terrible use of resources," Simoncini writes in a letter to Detroit City Council. "[It] does not preserve this site and provides [an] unsafe playing surface for the children," 

Matthew Simoncini

"I believe the [PAL] plan is severely flawed, is a terrible use of resources, does not preserve this site and provides [an] unsafe playing surface for the children." 

Lear CEO Matthew Simoncini

Under Simoncini's leadership, Lear has worked extensively with the city's Parks and Recreation department in recent years, spending more than $5 million rehabbing Detroit parks. Simoncini, a celebrated former football coach on the city's east side, understands better than most the importance of player safety on the gridiron.

Whether Lear's funding decision will affect PAL's redevelopment plans for the Tiger Stadium site remains to be seen, but it's clear that its CEO means business.

"This site is absolutely vital to Detroit," Simoncini says. "We can do better."

Scroll down for video of Detroit City Council's final meeting on the Tiger Stadium issue, including discussion of the Lear Corporation at 15:50.  


  1. Well said Mr. Simoncini! You just don't take something of these historic proportions, cover it with a rug... And then call it preservation.

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