Comerica Park: Detroit's Diamond in the Rough

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Comerica Park: Detroit's Diamond in the Rough

This article was originally published on www.stadiumjourney.com.

Paul Swaney, a fellow Bleacher Report writer, set off on a mission to compile the baseball stadium experiences of writers in each MLB city. Below is my assignment reviewing the Motor City's home.

 

Construction

Completed in 2000, Comerica Park ushered the Tigers into the 21st century. A stark contrast from rustic Tiger Stadium, Detroit’s new wide-aisled, well-decorated home features many amusements for both adults and children.

 

Food & Beverage

Comerica Park offers a fairly wide array of food and beverages. From sushi, to Little Caesar’s Pizza, to baseball’s traditional fare, certain items may be priced a bit high, but most are affordable and the quality is not lacking.

Big Cat Court, behind first base, offers Mexican and Asian food, pizza, ice cream, and drinks. Full pizzas cost a lofty $14.50, but most other meals in this section don’t reach double-digit dollars. The same food price structure exists in the Beer Hall behind third base, where you can also select from 34 different beers.

Unless you’re seated in the infield, food and snack vendors appear sporadically. If you seek a beer vendor, however, you’re primed to see one or two per inning no matter where you’re perched. These cash-only salesman charge $3.75 for hot dogs, $8.25 for a large Labatt’s or Budweiser, and $4.00 for ice cream sandwiches.

 

Atmosphere

Clawing outside the main entrance, a 15-foot sculpture of a tiger greets those passing by. Comerica Park’s most popular photo opportunity, fans line up by the dozen to snap a picture underneath its foot-long teeth.

As you stroll the main concourse, a blend of aromas and visual displays of Tiger history bombard your senses. Several of baseball’s all-time greats reside in statue form in center field. Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Willie Horton, Al Kaline, and Hal Newhouser take up permanent residence behind the brick Tigers Wall of Fame – a listing of some of Detroit’s most prominent figures.

Memorabilia displays set apart about every 100 feet between first and third base greet pedestrians, reminding them of teams that came before. Gloves and uniforms of Detroit’s great and not-so-great are contained in see-through cases, installed to educate young and old.

Perhaps the most glaring feature Comerica Park has to offer is not contained within it. Detroit’s picturesque skyline is visible from all fields, most notably on the third base side. This awe-inspiring view of occupied and vacant skyscrapers is reminiscent of the panorama outside a 15-story hotel suite.

A Ferris wheel, carousel, and massive center field water fountain are a few other structures that set Comerica Park apart from others.

 

Neighborhood

Let’s face it, Detroit does not make national headlines for its safety, but Comerica Park resides in the city’s mythical demilitarized zone. Ample lighting and a strong downtown police presence assure a secure, enjoyable visit, as long as one does not venture outside of established territory.

Unknown even to many locals, Cliff Bell’s at 2030 Park Avenue is a lavish venue where you can eat, drink, or catch a jazz band, just a few blocks from the stadium. With $2 happy hour specials and cocktail specials starting at $5, you can arrange a sophisticated stop that will be kind on your wallet. A Poetry Slam held every Monday welcomes participation from first-timers and veterans alike.

If the jazz bar scene does not pique your interests, don’t fret. Directly across Adams Street from Comerica Park (and Ford Field) rests the Elwood Bar & Grill (300 E. Adams), Detroit’s unofficial pre- and post-game station.

Shifted a few blocks from its original location to allow the construction of Comerica, the Art Deco-style Elwood has thrived since its slight relocation, becoming Detroit’s most congested bar when the Tigers and Lions take the field. Beer prices are moderate and meals are cheap (under $9).

Twenty-five umbrellaed picnic tables line the building, almost one for each different type of beer available (18). Beer tubs and musical performers appear on special occasions, most notably on Opening Day and during playoff runs.

Similar to the Elwood in congestion and proximity, Cheli’s Chili Bar at 47 E. Adams offers three levels, 36 flat-screen tv’s, and a rooftop deck that overlooks the stadium. Owned by former Detroit Red Wing and future Hall of Famer Chris Chelios, who frequently visits, Cheli’s chefs have mastered the art of American cooking. Don’t leave without trying the tasty waffle fries alongside your Cheli’s Chili 3-Way.

Prices are far from through the roof and the inside is very clean and organized. This casual environment will enhance your downtown experience, especially if you’re meeting friends on a radiant summer day.

 

Fans

In what might come as a surprise to outsiders, Detroit fans leave their tough guy image at the gate. Visitors, once nestled into their seats, should expect to engage in meaningful sporting conversation and debate.

Detroit is home to some of the most knowledgeable and hospitable fans in baseball and Comerica Park is a composite for Midwestern values. Though across the board all do not fit this wholesome description, the majority of Tigers fans are more than willing to dish about baseball’s current events or tip where to visit in the city.

Quiet fans, a surviving element from the pre-2006 days, sometimes limit the noise Comerica Park generates. The lean years of the 1990s and early 2000s created this sector, which still hasn’t learned how to express its appreciation for the Tigers. Luckily, the contained group hasn’t stifled the activity of everyone around them.

A hearty wave usually starts rolling around the stadium in the seventh inning, about the same time thousands lock arms, rock back and forth, and belt out “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”

 

Access

Dozens of fenced-in parking lots and several multi-level garages make downtown parking a breeze. As you traverse steaming sewer caps, you will also notice prices stack up favorably compared to many other American League cities.

Within a five-minute walk, you can park securely for as cheap as $10, and if you don’t mind hiking 10 minutes to the stadium, you can park for as low as $7. If you prefer a spot in an official Comerica Park lot, be prepared to shell out $25.

Mixing the old with the new, classic Tiger Stadium bars run free shuttles to and from Comerica Park in an effort to remain relevant. The educated baseball game attendee recognizes this western shuttle as a way to avoid paying any parking fees, since lots around Michigan and Trumbull have become defunct. Though return lines can stretch halfway down right field when the game ends, sometimes forcing a 20-minute wait, it’s worth it considering you won’t be moving far anyway in the heavy traffic.

If you wish to access Comerica Park from the eastern Greektown area, you will find a vast land of parking lots around the same price range. Numerous restaurants and bars, such as Old Shillelagh’s, frequently shuttle customers and non-customers to the game. One warning: Prepare to party hard if you hop on one of these modes of transport.

 

Return on Investment

Detroit has the seventh lowest ticket price range in Major League Baseball, despite having a top-five payroll. From the $5 skyline seats, to the $77 on-deck circle seats, hard-working fans without a lot of dough can take in the Tigers. Combine the affordable parking, food prices, and a playoff baseball team, and you can line up a night on the town for under $40.

An increase in Detroit’s quality of play has made a night at Comerica Park a popular option – since 2006, almost 10 million fans have strolled through the gates.

 

Etc.

In an effort to “reduce our carbon footprint”, recycling containers accepting plastic objects sit next to garbage cans in the concourse on both levels. This environmental action saves thousands of non-biodegradable plastic cups from being improperly disposed of each game.

Owner Mike Ilitch also creates a family friendly atmosphere by installing a fireworks show after all Friday and Saturday games.

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