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Fenway is a shrine; Tiger Stadium, a pile of rubble

Jun 9, 2009, 10:29 AM EDT

On the day after the final act in the Tiger Stadium drama came to pass, it’s helpful to remember that it didn’t have to be this way:

It’s
the smallest ballpark in the majors, many seats are obstructed behind
poles, it’s crammed into a small city block, and there is no room
around the concession stands. And yet, the stadium that is home to the
Boston Red Sox, has become a landmark beloved by fans and is thriving
in the struggling economy . . .

. . . Built in 1912,
Fenway is three years shy of its 100th birthday. Lacking the amenities
featured in many new stadiums, the park relies on old-fashioned
nostalgia to help sell tickets and incite excitement among fans. “They
have managed to tell people that while all the rest of the modern world
is basking in this comfort and luxury, you don’t come to a ballgame to
be comfortable. You come to a ballgame to see the ballgame,” said Ryan.

One of the things I’ll always wonder is what would have
happened if Tigers’ owner Mike Ilitch had sunk some money into a
thoughtful renovation of Tiger Stadium instead of trying to keep up
with the Joneses and build a shiny new park.

I’ll grant that the
Detroit economy was and will remain terrible, and I’ll also grant that
it’s probably harder to sell nostalgia to someone who visits Detroit to
gamble than to someone who comes back to Boston to see the old college
campus, but they could have at least tried.

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