Tiger Stadium Spared For Now

** FILE** An Aug. 2, 2007, file photo shows Tiger Stadium in Detroit. With the awarding of a demolition contract Tuesday, April 22, 2008, by the City of Detroit, the debate over old Tiger Stadium is shifting to whether to knock down all of the historic ballpark or to save a corner of it. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
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DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit City Council has granted Tiger Stadium a stay of execution.
The council voted 5-3 on Tuesday to reject a resolution that would have authorized the immediate demolition of the historic ballpark.
Crews began tearing down the stadium in June. A corner of the ballpark has been left standing while a preservation group tries to raise money to turn it into a sports museum.
The Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy had been told to pay the city $219,000 by Tuesday morning to hold off total demolition.
But the group didn't have the money ready. Conservancy vice president Tom Linn told the council that the group has $150,000 in hand and the rest of the money has been promised by donors. Linn said he expects the group to have the money by Friday.
"We're trying our hardest to meet the requirements," he said.
Some council members were skeptical about granting a delay. Councilwoman Barbara-Rose Collins said the city already has granted many extensions on the project.
"If they can't get that $219,000 and they want until Friday and then Friday comes and they want until the next week, I think we're doing a disservice to the city," she said, adding, "I think the city has bent over backward trying to accommodate the Conservancy."
Waymon Guillebeaux, a vice president at the Detroit Economic Development Corp., warned the council that the city will have to pay $125,000 if crews must be called back to the site to tear down the stadium at a later date.
Guillebeaux said the demolition contractor, a joint venture of MCM Management Corp. and the Farrow Group Inc., has delayed leaving the site to give the city more time to decide. But, he said, their work is done and time is up.
"It's become a large cost factor to have equipment, security, manpower on that site beyond the time when they're ready to go. They're ready to go," he said.
But Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel said she doesn't believe a three-day delay will make any difference, and most of her colleagues seemed to agree. Only Collins, Council President Monica Conyers and Councilman Kwame Kenyatta voted to demolish the stadium.
After the vote, the DEGC said in a written statement that it has "fulfilled our obligation ... to make every reasonable effort to preserve an historically significant portion of Tiger Stadium, while also preserving the City of Detroit's financial stake in the property." The corporation said it will work with the council to find "an acceptable redevelopment for the site."
Linn said the conservancy and the DEGC continued "businesslike and cordial" negotiations Tuesday after the council meeting, and he expected an agreement setting a timetable for future fundraising and planning on the project would be signed by Wednesday. That deal would give the group until the end of the week to come up with the money, he said.
Tiger Stadium opened in 1912 as Navin Field and hosted thousands of baseball games before it closed its gates in 1999. The Tigers now play at nearby Comerica Park.
Hopes to preserve and reuse the historic stadium have swirled since the last out on Sept. 27, 1999. But efforts gained new urgency when demolition of the ballpark began in late June.
In July, the city council delayed a vote on the stadium's fate and asked the Economic Development Corp. to work out a deal with preservationists. A tentative agreement was reached in August, but a final draft was not completed until the last few days
The preservation effort suffered a serious blow in September when legendary Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell resigned from the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy's board, and his charitable foundation returned about $540,000 in donations raised for the project. Harwell's longtime attorney, Gary Spicer, says the decision came after the city killed a proposed alternative to saving the stadium that would have allowed a new sports museum to be built on the site if preservationists couldn't raise enough money for the original project.
The conservancy says a pending $4 million federal earmark promised by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and historic tax credits will provide much of the estimated $15 million to preserve and restore the surviving portion of the stadium.

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