I’ve written about Navin Field — or, as it’s probably more properly called, Tiger Stadium — here a number of times. It’s the land on which old Tiger Stadium sat in Detroit. Since 2010, a group of volunteers known as the Navin Field Grounds Crew has lovingly cleaned up and restored the baseball playing surface there. It’s turned into a park of sorts. Even a tourist attraction. It’s a very special place for a lot of people. In July I told its story and the story of the Navin Field Grounds Crew.
The City of Detroit owns the land, of course, and it has worked on potential development plans. They are not necessarily in opposition to the Navin Field Grounds Crew on this, however. The former has respected that the land is best suited for baseball and has, after some initial hesitance, allowed the Crew to do its work and the public to use the land for those purposes. The latter, for its part, is not opposed to development because, jeez, this is Detroit and anything that can be done to revitalize the city is a good thing. At the moment the plan is for the Detroit Police Athletic League to use the property for youth sports and recreation and the like. Which no one opposes.
There has been one issue in all of this however: the playing surface. The Grounds Crew, out of baseball tradition, preference for natural surfaces and, no doubt, pride in its own work, has passionately advocated for the city to keep Tiger Stadium’s surface as grass. The Police Athletic League, however, has said it would prefer artificial turf because it’s cheaper and easier to maintain. As of last night, it appears that the Police Athletic League is getting its way. It informed City Council that it plans to tear up the grass install artificial turf.
I doubt there’s much that can be done to stop it at this point. The Navin Field Grounds Crew has waged a PR campaign against such an outcome for several months now to no avail. And, of course, it’s not their land to begin with, so their right to influence any of this is limited in the extreme.
But it’s sad. Sad that anyone is going to play baseball on fake grass in the middle of an open air field. Sad that, after over 100 years, there will be no grass on a playing surface at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. Sad that, in the middle of a city filled with far too much steel, glass and crumbling concrete, a ten acre patch of natural wonderfulness will now be removed in favor of a petrochemical monstrosity, all in the name of saving a few bucks on lawn mowing and fertilizer.