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June 12, 2009

Judge clears way for demolition of historic Detroit stadium

DETROIT

Tiger Stadium’s brief stay of execution ended Monday when a judge ruled that demolition of the historic ballpark could resume.

Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards rejected a request by the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy to issue a preliminary injunction preventing further demolition of the stadium. He also lifted a temporary restraining order issued last Friday afternoon that halted work begun just hours earlier.

Edwards agreed with lawyers for the city that the non-profit group likely can’t raise the funds for a proposed US$33.4 million redevelopment project, noting there is little financing in hand after years of work.

“It appears here that the plaintiff has been given every opportunity to succeed with this project,” Edwards said after about an hour of arguments, but the conservancy has “simply failed to come up with the requisite funding.”

The prospects for success in the future, Edwards said, are “very, very dim.”

Crews were expected to “immediately” resume tearing down what remains of Tiger Stadium said Waymon Guillebeaux, executive vice-president for project management and contract services at the Detroit Economic Growth Corp.

After the hearing, conservancy leaders appealed to Mayor Dave Bing to intervene to save the ballpark. But Bing said in a statement that while he remained “sensitive to the concerns of those who wish to preserve Tiger Stadium,” he would “honour” the judge’s decision.

Conservancy president Thomas Linn said the group would not appeal Edwards’ decision.

Much of the ballpark, which opened in 1912 as Navin Field, was demolished last year after sitting vacant since the Detroit Tigers departed for Comerica Park in 1999. But a section extending from dugout to dugout was left standing while the conservancy sought to raise money to transform the stadium into a commercial building with a working ball field.

Michael Myckowiak, lawyer for the conservancy, argued in court Monday that the city’s Economic Development Corp. has acted in “bad faith” in its dealings with the conservancy. He blasted the vote last week by the EDC board to level the stadium, saying the conservancy wasn’t told a decision was imminent.

“It’s our belief that what went on ... was a sham,” he said.

Myckowiak unsuccessfully asked for more time to raise money, saying the group has paid for security at the site through the end of June.

Associated Press

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