Raising the Expectations
In April of 2000, The Detroit News produced a commemorative section on the Detroit Tigers' first game at their new home, Comerica Park. A quote from the headlining story read as follows:
"Comerica Park is expected to make the Detroit Tigers part of baseball's nouveau riche" - The Detroit News
Those who have visited the ballpark agree with the expectations. A carousel. A ferris wheel. A mammoth water feature in center field that can be choreographed to any music. a decade-by-decade pedestrian museum enveloping the main concourse. But wait, there is also a field with a game being played as well. These are but a few examples of what Comerica Park introduced to fans visiting downtown Detroit in the summer of 2000.
Groundbreaking for the $300 million project took place on October 29, 1997. More than 60 percent of the financing is private, with the rest contributed from public sources. In the time since groundbreaking, the design has continued to evolve. The resulting goal realized is a combination of a classic design for the seating area with amusement and entertainment features that are unique to Comerica Park.
Tigers owner Mike Ilitch played a direct role in designing the facility and brought years of family entertainment experience to the process.
"If the fans feel the pride that this is their park, and a pride of ownership, then we've accomplished what we set out to do," said Ilitch.
Comerica Park itself is built around the configuration of the playing field. All planning efforts established fan sight lines as the highest priority. The surrounding "outbuildings," however, conform to the property boundaries of Montcalm, Witherell, Adams, and Brush Streets.
As one enters these boundaries, Comerica Park appears rooted at the center of an urban village, a village that includes shops, restaurants, offices, and other attractions. Eight, two- and three-story buildings of varying sizes and heights make up this village of outbuildings which houses many of the service facilities surrounding the park. Roughly 70,000 square feet of retail space is included and another 36,000 square feet is dedicated to Tigers offices. The result is a landscape that blends into the surrounding street life of the District Detroit.
And with no upper deck outfield seats, no ballpark offers a better view of a downtown skyline than Comerica Park.
The concourses are among the most generous of any facility. The minimum width of the main concourse is 40 feet, with wider concourses in many areas. The upper concourse is approximately 34 feet wide. The general standard for concourses in existing ballparks is 32 feet in width. Concourses at old Tiger Stadium were between 17 and 27 feet on the lower level and measured 11 feet behind the last row of the lower deck and 11 feet in the upper level.
Touring the main concourse, fans are taken through time on a tour of baseball and lifestyle history. The concourse is divided into different eras from the 20th century, and as the fan progresses on his or her walk, they move into a different time frame of history. Decade Monuments covering two decades each are placed throughout the concourse, towering from floor to ceiling and featuring artifacts from the appropriate eras. Heading into the next century, plans call for "The Walking Museum" to be incorporated into the upper concourse as well.
The main scoreboard at Comerica Park is one of the largest in baseball, measuring 127 feet wide by 48 feet tall. Scoreboard video content is provided by an HD control room with multiple camera angles for replays, as well as preproduced highlight videos and interactive fan features. In addition, more than 1,000 feet of LED ribbon boards provide up-to-the-second statistical info and HD graphics, further enhancing the game day experience at Comerica Park.
Typical ballparks have a point of sale (register) for every 200 fans; Comerica Park abbreviates the wait with one point of sale for every 125 fans. Among the features are the "Brushfire Grill" barbecue area behind third base and the Big Cat Court food area behind first base, with a wide range of snacks, sandwiches, frozen treats, and other great munchies.
In the middle of the food court, a merry-go-round is available for the young and young-at-heart, with patrons riding atop tigers instead of horses. Behind the Brushfire Grill stands a baseball-themed ferris wheel. Center field features a giant water feature, "Liquid Fireworks"," that synchronizes music to spraying fountains of water.
There are approximately 23,000 seats in the lower bowl of Comerica Park and 2,000 in the two suite levels. There are roughly 11,000 in the main upper deck. From just past first base to the right-field foul line there is a section with 4,000 seats that does not have a suite level. Therefore, the upper deck in this level is approximately 15 feet lower and closer to the field than the main upper deck.
Comerica Park features five premium seating areas. The Tiger Den was the first of its kind in baseball. Located at the upper rows of the lower bowl, it resembles the fashionable boxes at old-time sporting venues with moveable chairs. A private Tiger Den lounge is available for patrons. The first five rows of the upper bowl have been designated as Club Seats. Another premium seating area is located in the lowest rows of the lower bowl, called On-Deck Circle seats. Additionally, there are two levels of suites, which includes several party suites that are available for individual game rental. The Jack Daniel's Champions Club is a premium seating area that combines the space of nine suites into a private club. Members enjoy a free buffet meal, private bar, plasma-screen TV's and the memorabilia case which holds the Tigers 1968 & 1984 World Series trophies.
The MotorCity Casino Hotel Tiger Club, open on a membership basis, features approximately 20,000 square feet of entertaining space. There is seating for 300 overlooking the playing field in right field, a bar for 200, a cigar bar, and banquet facility.
Comerica Park complies with all guidelines of the ADA. In completing the facility, the Tigers worked extensively with organizations including The Paralyzed Veterans of America's Michigan Chapter and the Michigan Commission for the Blind to ensure accessibility for all fans and a great baseball experience for every guest who enters Comerica Park.
There are three main gated entrances to Comerica Park, each featuring attractions on a grand scale. Among the features are immense 80-foot high baseball bats framing the gates, tiger sculptures, and Pewabic tile accents.