Natural grass has graced “The Corner” for more than a century.
But some of the leaders of a plan to preserve the site where the Tigers have played more than a century of baseball want to cover the field with artificial turf.
Baseball fans are fighting back and have launched a petition urging officials to preserve the natural grass where Babe Ruth hit his 700th home run, where Kirk Gibson’s home run capped the 1984 World Series and where Denny McLain won his 30th game in 1968.
The field has been faithfully groomed by passionate volunteers of the Navin Field Grounds Crew since Tiger Stadium was demolished over the protests of fans in 2008.
The petition, less than a day old, has already reached more than half of its goal of 1,000 signatures.
Artificial turf “is a terrible idea,” Dave Mesrey, a founding member of the Navin Field Grounds Crew, wrote in a piece for Metro Times today.
“The real key to the success of any new development at Navin Field is true historic preservation. Tearing up the grass and covering the field with fake turf would not only be bad for the environment, it would effectively eradicate what little history remains at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull,” Mesrey wrote.
Mesrey also pointed out that artificial turf is more likely to cause injuries; it has a potential to cost more; and some research indicates it carries serious health hazards.
The site of Tiger Stadium, which has been attracting hundreds of visitors to the well-groomed field, is undergoing a $48.5 million transformation that would preserve much of the field. Included is a $15.5 million project to build an athletic complex, a joint project by the Detroit Police Athletic League and the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy. Detroit PAL, which would open a headquarters at the site, wants artificial turf because supporters said it’s more durable during the three seasons that it will be used.
Volunteers who have been maintaining the natural grass disagree and said the field would withstand heavy use.
Also included in the project is a $33 million plan to build a four-story building with 30,000 square feet of retail space.
In an act of defiance last summer, two members of the 1984 championship team gathered with a handful of fans at the former Tiger Stadium site, despite the city’s insistence that no one enter the field.
The city has yet to cite people for trespassing on the field.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.