A partnership that wants to use Tiger Stadium for minor-league baseball last week found out how Detroit City Council plays ball, and it wasn’t pretty. The group, Michigan & Trumbull Ltd., ran afoul of a particularly surly Councilwoman Kay Everett when it pitched a $2.5 million plan to utilize the historic stadium.
“You did not go through the process,” bellowed Everett, indignant that the group appeared without approval from the city Planning Department. “I have a real problem with that. I have a real problem with that!” When the men tried to explain, she interrupted, “Did you hear what I said?”
The group, led by former Tigers employee Peter Comstock Riley, says it wants to bring a Frontier League team to town. Tickets would cost $4.50 to $6. “Comerica Park is the House of Lords,” said New Jersey ballpark developer Robert Hilliard. “Tiger Stadium would be the House of Commons.”
Hilliard said Michigan & Trumbull would lease and manage the structure for $18,000 a year — saving the city the $420,000 it pays the Tigers annually to guard and maintain the old ballpark.
Everett (looking splendid in a white cowgirl hat with a large golden flower on it) showed up about midway through the presentation, then socialized with audience members and joked with fellow Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel.
Councilwoman Maryann Mahaffey, on the other hand, had to justify the invitation she offered to the group, saying, “We have the right to hear from the people any time, not just after they go through a department.” And Hilliard, flushed, defended himself: “The reason we’re here is because nobody else will hear us.”
To top things off, Planning Department rep Kerry Baitinger threw a surprise curveball into the proceedings by announcing a developer (he refused to name names) just proposed spending $200 million to convert the stadium into a residential/commercial project. That bit of news was revealed only after Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr. pressed the issue.
“If I hadn’t asked, when were you planning to tell us this?” Cockrel queried. Baitinger said the plans should be made public soon. Out-of-towners at the meeting looked bewildered. Ohio resident Bill Lee, commissioner of the 12-team Frontier League, later said the confrontational proceedings surprised him. “As an outsider watching it, it’s hard to understand how anything in the city of Detroit gets done, when the council members can’t get along among themselves.”
Welcome to Detroit.Lisa M. Collins contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]