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Lawsuit Endangers Tiger Stadium Replacement

December 13, 1995

DETROIT (AP) _ A lawsuit arguing state money is being improperly used to build a replacement for Tiger Stadium threatens the project, according to a lawyer representing a city agency involved in financing the ballpark.

The suit was filed by the Tiger Stadium Fan Club and state Sen. George Hart, D-Dearborn, against the state and Gov. John Engler.

Hart and the fan club, which supports renovating 83-year-old Tiger Stadium, argue Engler bypassed the Legislature when the Michigan Strategic Fund authorized $55 million for the new downtown stadium.

The Detroit Downtown Development Authority plans to raise $40 million through a bond sale as its contribution toward the $240 million project. The Tigers are to provide the rest of the funding.

In a Nov. 28 letter to Ingham County Circuit Judge James Giddings, who is hearing the case, a lawyer representing the DDA said the lawsuit ``may place the entire project in jeopardy.″

``The pendency of this lawsuit casts a pall over the project which will likely make aspects of the financing problematic,″ attorney Peter Ellsworth wrote.

Giddings today was scheduled to a hear a motion by the DDA seeking permission to join the state in its fight against the fan club and Hart.

The lawsuit has delayed a final decision by the city on when to sell the DDA bonds, said James Tervo, executive assistant to Mayor Dennis Archer.

The state, meanwhile, requires that the city and the Tigers complete their agreement by Dec. 31 for the $55 million in Strategic Fund money to become available. But Engler spokeswoman Pat Masserant said the state wouldn’t automatically withdraw its stake in the project if the lawsuit delays it.

``At this point, we assume everything is on schedule,″ Masserant said. ``If in fact Dec. 31 rolls around, we’ll deal with it when the time comes.″

Lawmakers would withhold the state’s share of the project if they had a chance to vote, Hart said.

But the Michigan Strategic Fund and its predecessor, the Michigan Economic Development Authority, have spent $250 million on various projects and never have needed legislative approval to do so, said Mark Morante, executive secretary of the strategic fund.