DETROIT (AP) – The Motor City skyline looms beyond the outfield, Ty Cobb and Al Kaline are honored with majestic statues and many of the amenities money can buy are plentiful at the latest home of the Detroit Tigers.

Comerica Park is what Tiger Stadium wasn’t – and that is both good and bad.

Boston manager Terry Francona – who will lead the American League against the National League in the All-Star game Tuesday at Detroit’s 5-year-old ballpark – raved about the look and feel of old Tiger Stadium after coaching third base there for the Tigers in 1996.

Then, when asked about Comerica Park, he summed up the opinions many locals seem to share.

“It’s new. It’s nice,” Francona said.

Tiger Stadium opened in 1912, and over the following eight decades many fell in love with the cozy park known as “The Corner” at the intersection of Michigan and Trumbull in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.

“The field itself was one of my favorites,” said Arizona manager Bob Melvin, who made his major league debut with the Tigers in 1985. “The whole stadium smelled like baseball, similar to Wrigley and Fenway.

“Ernie Harwell and the fans were right on top of you, so close you could hear them talk. I loved the upper decks, and the overhang in right. The old place had so much character.”

After waxing nostalgically about Tiger Stadium, even its supporters acknowledge it had to be replaced because of its crumbling infrastructure, obstructed views and lack of many luxury suites.

Tigers manager Alan Trammell, who played for 20 years at Tiger Stadium, said the franchise needed to have a new home.

“It was time to move on because the old stadium was falling apart,” Trammell said behind his desk at Comerica Park, with a mural of the new stadium behind him and a framed picture of the old one to his right. “My first two years as manager here, I visited two times each year and even though the field was full of weeds, it didn’t do anything to my memories. I went about a month ago, but I couldn’t get in through the door where I could usually go and knock and somebody would let me in. Nobody was there.

“I hope it can be preserved in some way, but I realize that’s unlikely because somebody would have to really step up financially with a plan to use the place.”

The city of Detroit, which owns Tiger Stadium, requested proposals for reuse of the ballpark in 1999 and for redevelopment in 2002, and says it has continued to market the site over the past few years.

“At present, no serious development proposal is under consideration,” the city said in a news release. “The department will continue to maintain the building in the most cost-effective way and therefore has reduced its yearly maintenance contract to only cover emergency repairs, security, exterior cleaning and grass cutting.”

Tiger Stadium was a hitter-friendly park, unless you hit it to center, where the wall was 440 feet from home plate. Comerica Park is only kind to batters if they hit triples.

Two years ago, the Tigers brought in the left-field fence, reducing the distance to the left-center wall to 370 feet from 395 feet. The rest of the dimensions remained the same: 345 feet down the left-field line, 420 feet in center, 365 feet to right-center and 330 feet down the right-field line.

Since Comerica Park opened in 2000, an average of 0.72 triples per game have been hit there – more than any other major league ballpark, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Comerica averaged just 1.81 home runs, 28th in the majors, ahead of only San Diego’s Petco Park and the Florida Marlins’ stadium.

Juan Gonzalez complained about the dimensions and left the Tigers, turning down a $143 million, eight-year offer.

“It’s a nice ballpark, but it’s too big and it’s hard to hit home runs here,” said Detroit’s Ivan Rodriguez, who is to compete Monday night in the Home Run Derby. “Tiger Stadium was very old and had a lot of memories from all the big games and players that are now in the Hall of Fame. But it was not good facility-wise for the players.”

Though it was hardly needed, Comerica Park has been spruced up with fresh coats of paint, new carpet and All-Star logos throughout the venue for the city’s first All-Star game since 1971.

Ilitch Holdings, the company formed to manage Mike Ilitch’s empire that includes the Tigers, Red Wings and pizza chain Little Caesars, and the Detroit Chamber of Commerce are even trying to make the cityscape more presentable. They have asked building owners to turn their lights on Monday and Tuesday nights, even though some of the structures are abandoned.

Fans inside Comerica Park can see out, and the ticket-less on the outside can see in through large gaps in the iron fence while standing on surrounding sidewalks. Comerica features upper decks that run from foul pole to foul pole, instead of around the entire field as at Tiger Stadium.

“The view that you get here, that you didn’t get before, is one of the things I think are great,” Melvin said. “You can see a lot of downtown, and it gives you the blue-collar feel that this city is all about.”

But the view for many in the 40,950-seat stadium is what sours some, especially when they compare it to the intimate setup a couple of miles away. Luxury boxes, requisite in all newer ballparks, pushed the upper deck skyward.

Some of the best seats at Tiger Stadium were in the first few rows of the upper deck behind the plate. At Comerica Park, those same seats provide breathtaking views, but are so far away fans feel like they’re looking down on the game from the roof of a tall building.

The view from section 345, row 20, seat 16 – the farthest vantage point – makes players look tiny, though those seats go for less than $10 for regular-season games.

“Comerica is beautiful, but it’s too big and things are too spread out,” said San Diego’s Robert Fick, whose grand slam in the final game at Tiger Stadium in 1999 lifted Detroit to a win. “At Tiger Stadium the fans were on top of you.

“The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve appreciated what happened on that day because so many people have said it was such a big deal to them to have the last game end like that.”

AP-ES-07-08-05 1129EDT

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