I know it appears to be a little late to be asking whether Tiger Stadium was worth keeping, although I’m guessing many of you still have strong opinions about it. But it is sort of topical in a way even today, and I thought I’d put this out there for all of you to chew on.
I recently read "The Final Season" by Tom Stanton, about his memories of the classic ballpark and his disdain for the mentality that caused its demise. In a part of the book he expresses irritation at the thought—expressed to him by a Red Sox fan—that somehow Fenway Park was worth preserving more than Tiger Stadium was.
At the time Comerica Park was being planned, it was a generally accepted probability that Fenway Park and Wrigley Field would eventually face the wrecking ball like all the rest. But it didn’t happen. Fenway was restored and remodeled, adding concourse space and seats on the Green Monster among many other improvements, and Fenway is again a crown jewel of baseball without having lost anything that made it special.
Fenway’s miraculous rebirth has resulted in the ditching of any possibility that Wrigley Field may be replaced anytime in the near future. All well and good, but Tiger Stadium, a ballpark that was every bit as beloved by Tigers fans, is now gone, with only a depressing grass field now where it once majestically stood. Had Fenway been remodeled sooner, things might be different in Detroit.
As a big fan of Fenway and Wrigley I am happy to see that they will both still be standing for a while. But the preservation of these old relics does create new headaches for the Cubs and Red Sox.
Part of the "economic realities" that result in new stadiums being built is the inclusion of suites, luxury boxes, premium parking, even hotels in some cases…in other words, sources of huge corporate write-off revenue for teams. Yankee Stadium has seats that go for four digits per game and several exclusive, expensive club areas; and at least until recently, those big bucks helped pay for several big name free agents to come to the Bronx.
In this arena, the Tigers can at least compete with most teams, because they now have these revenue streams. For the Red Sox and Cubs, whose facilities severely limit the addition of suites and skyboxes, it becomes much harder. The Red Sox recently were (and may still be) the most expensive average ticket in baseball; the Cubs charge upwards of $70 for seats without backs for prime games. For now, the ballparks themselves are sufficient to attract large crowds regardless of the team’s fortunes; it’s hard to say whether that will last, especially as prices soar to see possibly mediocre clubs.
The current renovation plan for Wrigley is also fraught with problems. The owners of the Cubs, informed by Chicago that taxpayers will not fund renovations, have a proposal to place huge billboards of advertising in the outfield; needless to say the rooftop building owners on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues don’t like the idea and have proposed advertising on the rooftop buildings themselves. My reaction to both suggestions is: Leave Wrigley Field as it is.
Given the choice, I would probably have chosen to keep Wrigley and Fenway; I love both places and don’t mind paying a few extra bucks to see a game in them. But it’s up in the air how the Red Sox and Cubs will be able to keep a large payroll, especially if attendance drops as it has for the Cubs. Television probably brings in more money, but the luxury suite revenue is no small chunk of change.
I am a 40-something Orioles fan who grew up going to games at Memorial Stadium. I understood at least partly how Tigers fans felt about losing their longtime home. I still miss Memorial. But it’s also hard not to love Camden Yards; I don’t even try to find anything to dislike about it. I never managed to visit Tiger Stadium, but I do love Comerica Park; it’s one of my favorite ballparks. So it’s difficult for me to say if I would have preferred to save Tiger Stadium.
So I’m curious what Tigers fans think, given what the Red Sox and Cubs fans have been dealing with lately and the price of keeping their classic ballpark.