PAL lied to public before tearing up historic field at Tiger Stadium site

Crews are digging up the historic field at the site of former Tiger Stadium. Photo by Steve Neavling

Crews are digging up the historic field at the site of former Tiger Stadium. Photo by Steve Neavling

As bulldozers tore up the historic field at Michigan and Trumbull this week, another lie was uncovered about the Police Athletic League’s plans for the site.

From the start the project to put a PAL youth stadium at the Corner has been cloaked in deception. The plan masqueraded as preservation in order to win a $3 million federal grant. PAL sold that plan to the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy, the gatekeepers for the grant, and to foundations contributing to the project without disclosing that the field would be artificial turf. Then, in public meetings last fall, PAL CEO Tim Richey deceptively cited MSU turf management expert John N. Rogers, a staunch opponent of artificial turf, as a backer of its carpeting plan at the historic site of former Tiger Stadium.

Residents played baseball on the field until PAL recently took control. Photo by Steve Neavling

Residents played baseball on the field until PAL recently took control. Photo by Steve Neavling

When the need for synthetic turf was questioned at City Council and other public forums and in interviews, Richey and other PAL officials always insisted the organization needed to have a carpet because it would be programming the site for its youth sports so heavily that a natural grass field wouldn’t hold up under all the wear and tear. And PAL’s responses to criticisms of its plan often scolded naysayers as being against city kids playing ball at the site.

But in remarks published in the Detroit News on Tuesday, PAL spokesman Russ Russell painted quite a different picture, saying PAL youth sports will constitute only about 50% of the programming. The rest of the time PAL will be operating a rental facility for banquets, private parties, concerts, and college games.

“You got to make money,” Russell said. “A lot of other uses will…create revenue.”

Tiger Stadium before it was demolished.

Tiger Stadium before it was demolished.

The programming suggests what many critics have indicated – artificial turf isn’t needed because young Detroiters won’t be playing at Michigan and Trumbull from dawn to dusk. It isn’t a matter of meeting programming needs for youth sports. It’s a convenience to make maintenance easier. Half the time PAL will be operating a private rental business, using federal money meant for historic preservation and foundation money obtained under false pretenses.

PAL’s rental facility will be flanked by a private housing development along Trumbull and private retail along Michigan. That’s how Detroit will dispose of this treasured historic site that was a public gathering place for more than a century – by turning it into a cash cow for those fortunate few connected to the city’s power brokers.

As for city youth? If Russell can be believed now, they’ll get about half of what was promised them – if that. PAL also didn’t mention at public forums that it has no plans to transport its youth athletes to Michigan and Trumbull from neighborhood fields where they play PAL sports now. They’ll have to get there on their own.

Michael Betzold

Michael Betzold is a former Free Press reporter and longtime area freelance journalist. He wrote Queen of Diamonds, a history of Tiger Stadium. He lives on Detroit’s east side.

  • Jack Ramsey

    Law enforcement lying and betraying the public!? Unbelievable!

  • rhoneyman

    once the stadium was torn down, it became an empty lot. if there’s a better use for it, go for it.

  • javierjuanmanuel

    the city of detroit does not get ripped off, they rip off the city. Anyone who signed off on anything we do that does not turn out well, seems to be super eager to just believe. In a world where nothing is left to chance, everything is insured, there are tens of thousands of laws for business, hell just running a subway franchise comes with a 1500 page book, we just go, sure … if you say you will do that, then do it.

    Its a question of are they stupid, or are they liars.

  • SuperBeeee

    Sooooo, a bunch of liberals lying and scrooooooing the little guy so they can get rich. Yawn.

  • bill c

    No shock here!

  • bill c

    No shock here!

  • Dj999

    This is how the left works. Act like we care about the people. When they turn their backs we will give this project and land to our buddies to make money and they will make sure we get our fair share. The heck with the taxpayers. Isn’t this Detroit in a nutshell?

    • javierjuanmanuel

      Hey but on paper its a non profit. He is a good man, he runs a non profit, not like those money hungry suits down town and out in oakland county.

  • ProfesorInfierno

    This is the type of garbage that gives Detroit a bad name. People outside of Detroit always say “why should we help Detroit, look how corrupt the management is?” And it seems the city leaders prove their critics right time and again.

  • Alexzander Carter

    Let’s just call it what it is…..certain people don’t want these young ghetto kids to have fun and play on their MEMORIES. They can’t stand the thought of these inner city youths doing something constructive on a field that “certain people ” feel entitled too. After all, in these peoples minds they own anything they are fond of and it’s a travesty that urban folk be allowed to utilize anything THEY hold true ESPECIALLY when THEY have little CONTROL over it.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      This is to manage a tax free revenue stream, pay your self a competitive wage to private work, and not really work or every compete.

      Notice he did not try to fund this all himself in any old open lot because he thinks its a great idea, and cashed in his 401k, and sold his house and his second car. He is not going to work 7 days a week, 80 hour weeks for the next ten years to make it work.

      He is going to work half ass 4.5 hour days, 3 days per week, and pay himself like middle upper management at a successful private company.

      This has nothing to do with race.

      This is connected people, fucking over little guys. Now that detroit is mostly black, you can say that sure it effects a lot of black people, but it effects anyone not rich, not connected to the power structure.

      You and I, and even white kids songs of doctors, engineers, lawyers, you do not just walk into an office downtown and get a deal like this. This is connected democrats if its anything.

  • Alexzander Carter

    This article is a nit pickers/reachers dream. Did PAL say the field would be exclusively used for PAL sports at any point? I doubt it. And since when wasn’t 50% use not enough to destroy a grass field? I’ve seen grass fields get destroyed by one team using it a fraction of the time PAL will use this new field. With the amount of teams that are going to use this field and the amount of activity, maintenance costs would have been astronomical for all the damage that would be done by the activity. Grassy Turf lasts for decades without the cost of water and gas and equipment to mow the lawn

    • javierjuanmanuel

      That I agree with. MCMR was trying to say it was cancerous a few months ago.

  • Dale Atkinson

    While I appreciate this article, I didn’t need to read it to know what PAL is doing ISN’T preservation. It’s painfully obvious the earmark isn’t being used for what it was intended. More deceit! So sad the Corner had to end like this.

  • larry

    The money made will help support PAL and it’s endeavors. The kids will get great use out of a beautiful state-of-the-art, safe field.
    The “Willie Horton Field of Dreams” Stadium will spur growth and employment in that area.
    PAL and it’s leadership are to be commended for their foresight and Progressive thinking.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      That area already has growth, not sure how it will spur growth.

      This is not some tier one automotive supplier paying lots of dudes 85-150k per year, and going to say brightmoore, cleaning up blight, putting in a park and making the cash registers turn and other business pop up.

      The natural progression of that area is every few months going down the street for the next couple years to the next ten years, new stores were going to organically pop up.

      This will not HURT, but that was already going to happen

  • larry

    The money made will help support PAL and it’s endeavors. The kids will get great use out of a beautiful state-of-the-art, safe field.
    The “Willie Horton Field of Dreams” Stadium will spur growth and employment in that area.
    PAL and it’s leadership are to be commended for their foresight and Progressive thinking.

  • Tom

    They scraped up spirits and history and dumped it in a truck, absolutely gone.
    Not unusual for Detroit

  • Tom

    They scraped up spirits and history and dumped it in a truck, absolutely gone.
    Not unusual for Detroit

  • Ed McEachern

    Honesty doesn’t make money apparently. Not shocked; corruption continues.

  • CommonSenseInTheD

    Tim Richey & PAL have deceived the public and I find this deceitful behavior appalling and shameless and if I were their funding sources, I would withdraw their funding.

  • Well written my former Green Acres neighbor.

  • Dean Henry

    Bullshit flung from the Bullshit Flingers all in the name of the All Mighty $; God Bless the USA and it’s rulers.

  • Dean Henry

    Bullshit flung from the Bullshit Flingers all in the name of the All Mighty $; God Bless the USA and it’s rulers.