Law firm helps guide redevelopment of Tiger Stadium site

By Brian Cox
Legal News

The outfield is green and the dirt on the basepaths is fresh again at the beloved Corktown corner where old Tiger Stadium once stood at Michigan and Trumbull.

The Detroit Police Athletic League celebrated the redevelopment and grand opening of its first permanent headquarters and youth sports facility at the site March 24. It was a multi-faceted project 5 years in the making.

The law firm Foley & Lardner, which opened an office in downtown Detroit in 2000, was involved with the redevelopment from the start, advising and assisting PAL primarily on a pro bono basis. The firm led negotiations with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation to secure land rights from the City of Detroit and helped pursue new markets tax credits and bridge loans from Fifth Third Bank to help finance the construction. The firm committed 275 pro bono hours to PAL in 2017 alone in connection with the new headquarters and stadium.

“There are so many stakeholders and people who care for this property so much,” said senior counsel Robert Nederhood. “It was a project PAL really wanted to get right.”

The new $21-million development includes the 8,500-square-foot headquarters as well as a banquet hall and a multi-sport youth complex that encompasses the baseball diamond, which was christened the Willie Horton Field of Dreams and maintains the dimensions of the old field. Some elements of the old ballpark have made it to the new field, including the green chairs behind home plate and the old flagpole, which has been repainted and sits at the far end of centerfield. The ballpark has seating for 2,000 and includes dugouts, locker rooms, a gift shop, and space for vendors.

“You feel like you’re at a minor league baseball field,” said Nederhood. “It’s pretty cool.”

The Tigers last played at Tiger Stadium in 1999, before moving to Comerica Park at the start of the 2000 season. The stadium was demolished in 2009. PAL was awarded the site in 2015 and broke ground in the spring of 2016.

“As we started thinking about this redevelopment, it just made sense to bring Foley in since we’ve been partners for so long,” said Detroit PAL CEO Tim Richey. “There continues to be a gap in resources to fund and activate youth sports programming, which is why PAL is so critical to Detroit’s landscape. We’ve seen these kids grow through our programs, including the 14,000 girls and boys who participated in PAL programming activities last year. Thanks to partners like Foley, we are thrilled that they’ll have the opportunity to play at a historic location in the city that remains so important to the community.”

“PAL is an incredible organization, and we were happy to help them navigate the various legal, regulatory and financial nuances needed to redevelop the Tiger Stadium site,” said Foley Partner Steve Hilfinger.

“This would be an exciting project for any firm to work on, but as a firm that has been in downtown Detroit since the founding of our office nearly 20 years ago, it’s especially fulfilling to see this one come together.”

Nederhood echoed Foley’s commitment to the revitalization of Detroit and said the Corner Ballpark was a project the firm could get behind with vigor.

“It’s been great for us to be a part of the revitalization,” said Nederhood. “For us to be a part of this project is something to be proud of.”
Detroit PAL plans to program a variety of sports on the field, including baseball, softball, Tball, coach pitch, football, cheer, soccer, basketball, golf, track & field and volleyball.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony March 24 was attended by Mayor Mike Duggan, Police Chief James Craig, and former U.S. Senator Carl Levin.
Afterward, the first baseball game was played on the new field between high schools Detroit King and West Bloomfield.

Nederhood described the project’s completion as a major achievement.

“We’re glad to see it come to fruition and see baseball being played there again,” he said.