#MIHistory – July 13: Tiger Stadium Gets a New Lease on Life

On this day in 1977, the Detroit Tigers sold Tiger Stadium to the city of Detroit and then signed a 30-year lease. The city renovated the stadium using a grant from the federal government.

Tiger Stadium at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Avenue.

Tiger Stadium at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Avenue.

Tiger Stadium’s roots reach back to 1895, when Detroit Tigers owner George Vanderbeck had a ballpark built at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull avenues. Named Bennett Park, the ball field had a wooden grandstand, and its outfield marked off with rope. By 1911, new Tigers owner Frank Navin decided the team needed an upgrade, and ordered a 23,000-seat, steel-and-concrete stadium to be built on the same site. Named Navin Field, it opened on April 20, 1912 – the very same day the Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park opened.

Over the years, expansions were added to the stadium to allow seating for more people. A 1935 expansion brought capacity to 36,000, and by 1938, new construction and a name change to Briggs Stadium brought seating to 53,000. New owner John Fetzer changed the name to Tiger Stadium in 1961, and the stadium saw Tigers win World Series titles in 1968 and 1984.

The Detroit Lions shared Tiger Stadium for its home games from 1938 until 1974, when they moved to the Pontiac Silverdome.

Eventually, controversial plans were made to move the Tigers to a new home. Loyal fans protested the move from the historic ball park and organized to save it, but the stadium saw its final game on Sept. 27, 1999 – a Tiger win over the Kansas City Royals.

The historic stadium was maintained for several years after the Tigers left, and became the backdrop for baseball films and documentaries. It was finally demolished on Sept. 21, 2009.

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