Detroit council to vote tonight on ripping up Tiger Stadium field, replacing it with easier-to-maintain fake turf

The Detroit city council is set to decide tonight on whether to approve the city Police Athletic League’s plan to turn the old Tiger Stadium site into a youth sports facility — something that would likely be heralded by all sides as a great solution (previous plans would have had buildings on top of the old ballfield) if not for the fact that it would require ripping up the grass field meticulously maintained by the volunteer Navin Field Grounds Crew and replacing it with artificial turf. The PAL is proposing this because it’s a more modern, better surface for — aw, hell, it’s just because it’s cheaper, okay?

Prof. John N. “Trey” Rogers of Michigan State University’s School of Turf Management says he advised PAL to use synthetic turf only because PAL had an insufficient budget and a lack of the expertise needed to maintain a natural grass field.

PAL wanted to use the field six to ten hours daily, Rogers says, but presented a maintenance budget of “less than six figures” annually—which indicated they wouldn’t be able to hire anyone with the expertise needed to maintain a grass field at that level of usage.

Asked whether if PAL had a sufficient budget they could maintain real grass, Rogers says definitely yes—“it just takes a lot of care and know-how to do it.”

There’s actually a good case to be made that turf is more expensive than grass over the long term, because you have to replace it every few years, whereas grass just has to be maintained. I’m personally hoping that the Grounds Crew’s petition succeeds in getting the city to direct the PAL to come up with a plan to preserve the grass, if only because I haven’t made it out to play a pickup game on the old field yet; we’ll find out tonight whether I, and any other interested baseball fans, will get the chance.


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7 comments on “Detroit council to vote tonight on ripping up Tiger Stadium field, replacing it with easier-to-maintain fake turf

  1. Years ago when I was a credit officer I did a loan for a company that was a supplier to Field Turf. Some people in parts of the country where lawns burn up get artificial turf for their lawns and they said it typically takes 3 years to recover your costs.

    I understand its not a perfect translation because while you could get artificial turf as your lawn anywhere it usually only happens in places like Arizona where it hardly rains and your water bills would be insane, but then again your lawn isn’t being played on for many hours a day.

  2. Whether it is natural turf or artificial, a maintenance/replacement (and rest for natural turf) plan has to be built in. Around here (Silicon Valley), the natural fields are overused, under maintained and get constant use. Schools are putting in synthetic turf, but lo and behold, need to (or should be) replaced within 5-7 years. They become like rock-hard slip n’ slides.

    Was just in Scottsdale and notice all the pristine, well-watered soccer fields with chains and signs over the goals that said “FIELD CLOSED. FOR LEAGUE USE ONLY” That would be the way to do it (assuming you have the tax dollars and unlimited water supplies.

  3. Aqib: I have no doubt that FieldTurf claims you’ll recoup your costs in a few years, but many, many studies have shown the opposite. See the links in this article:

  4. Detroit PAL went to Michigan State’s turf management program and asked them for advice, the experts said that given how much they plan to use the field, turf is the best choice. Past 20 hours or so a week of use in Detroit’s climate, grass fields start to deteriorate. (And credit to the Navin Field folks, but what they’ve managed to maintain there isn’t actually a playable field in any meaningful sense of the term.) I loved Tiger Stadium and still remember how it smelled. But personally, I believe that more baseball is better than less baseball and kids playing a game is more important than adults role playing their memories.

  5. The 3 year figure was from a Field Turf supplier not the company itself. Also, they were referring to residential where I assume the fields last longer because they don’t play football on them and they are being used in places where water is more expensive.

  6. Is Detroit’s climate that much different than New York City’s? Because here the parks department’s recommendation is grass for baseball, turf for soccer. (And even that is disputed by some people.)

  7. Um, “School of Turf Management”? At a state university? I suppose I’m the only one who finds that concept a little odd…

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