The Guardian on Ilitch and old Tiger Stadium


How American sports franchises are selling their cities short

Reads the title of an article in Monday's Guardian

This place is sacred ground. At least it is for Tom Derry, who visits the fenced-off shrine in Detroit’s Corktown neighbourhood every week, in memory of the demigods who once walked here. He also cuts the grass. A star-spangled banner dangles above him from a 125-foot flagpole, standing guard over the 10-acre field.

Across the field, another man repairs flood damage recently suffered at home plate, the altar of this former cathedral of American sport. A father and his young son, careful not to step on his handiwork, play catch nearby.

And so the story goes, paying respect to Tom Derry and the Navin Field Grounds Crew, while shining a bright light on publicly-backed stadiums:

But it would be an overstatement to say the publicly backed stadiums jumpstarted an urban boom. They’re nestled beside a handful of parking lots, court buildings and highways that cut through the city core – remnants of mid-century visions of urban renewal. Residential areas north of the district are still marred by abandonment. And for most of the year, the hulking structures stand vacant... 

As more cities have been burned, of course, Americans have grown increasingly skeptical of stadiums as tools for urban growth. But public funding became engrained in the sports business model long ago, so teams still have every reason to convince their fans to believe...

And it gets into the Ilitch deal:

The [Detroit] City Council... sold more than three-dozen parcels of publicly owned land where the arena will be built – all for $1. The Ilitch organisation will pay no rent to play in the city-owned stadium and pocket 100% of the revenue it generates. 

The full story is worth a read by all Detroiters, here.

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