Turf war: Debate rages over Tiger Stadium site's field

- It has been years since the old Tiger Stadium was demolished and the future of the property is still in development.

Construction will begin soon but the question is whether to keep the grass or replace it with a man-made product?

Everyone is on board with Detroit Police Athletic League's mission getting more kids involved in sports and building their character. But a rift is over what many consider hallowed ground - the grass at Navin Field.

The emotions of what to do with the field sparked strong emotions at a Corktown meeting Wednesday night.

"Any natural surface is not going to maintain, is not going to provide the level of durability that we're looking for," said Detroit PAL CEO Tim Richey.

As Detroit PAL and the old Tiger Stadium Conservancy moves forward with redevelopment plans, preservationists led by the Navin Field Grounds Crew are urging them keep the natural grass not replace it with synthetic turf.

"Our number one concern is the health of the kids," said Tom Derry of the Navin Field Grounds Crew. "And we're not ashamed to say we are concerned about the risks that go with using artificial turf."

The Navin Field Grounds Crew and other supporters say artificial turf can get extremely hot during the summer, causes more severe injuries and could cause cancer.

"Our many volunteers know and understand we value these kids to the utmost," said Dewayne Jones of Detroit PAL. "And there would be no way we would put them on a surface that would in any way fracture or injure their health going forward."

Jones, the PAL athletic director, says most grass alternatives have improved dramatically recent years. The hybrid natural artificial surface it is considering, is far more durable than grass and most fears that synthetic turf is linked to cancer are not backed up by science.

"Once upon a time there was inconclusive evidence about asbestos, a great product," said one grounds crew member. "Now I spend most of my days filing lawsuits for survivors."

People at the meeting also raised concerns about the accessibility of Navin Field.

Here's one of my concerns," said one grounds crew member. "Will you be open 24/7 without charge?"

"Open 24/7? I don't think that's going to be manageable," said Richey,

Many left with the impression Detroit PAL already decided to blanket Navin Field with synthetic turf, but Jones insists that's not the case.

"The conversations will continue," Jones said. "There have been no decisions made, but we know and understand for playability that this probably is best for the kids that we serve. But we're going to make sure kids are safe."

Jones says it doesn't know when it will decide between natural grass and synthetic turf for Navin Field. It will break ground on the redevelopment project in the beginning of 2016 and should have it wrapped up by spring of 2017.

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