Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tigers' Magic Number: 6

All that Magic Number crap is out the window now. Sweep this double-header and it's pretty much over. 

Days like this should be considered borderline holidays, and all daytime and evening activities, including work and youth hockey practice, should be canceled. 

Fine Arts Building façade preserved for future use

Sometimes it’s possible to salvage a building that’s stood empty and rotting for years, refurbish it, and shape it into a once-again usable place. It’s a pretty cool process to watch. Other times, the rot runs too deep and the place is destroyed. Usually there’s no in-between.

Which is why the mere idea of salvaging the façade of the old Fine Arts Building in Grand Circus Park in downtown Detroit is so remarkable. It’s even more awesome to see it. In case you haven’t, here’s essentially what they’ve done. Because the building was in such bad shape, there was no saving it, and demolition crews recently brought all but one wall of the 12-story structure to the ground.

In an effort to preserve the look of the building – which was at one time a famous place in Detroit, sort of a back entryway into the Adams Theater, to which it was connected via a second-story tunnel – an enormous scaffolding structure was built to hold the façade in place until a future development is attached. It’s amazing, not to mention very strange to see.

The building, my crack research tells me, is part of the Ilitch empire. No announcement has been made regarding the site’s future use, but one rumor did have Ilitch building office space to expand its current location in the Fox Theater. I’ve also heard they’re planning on installing some cool lighting to dress the place up until development begins.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Fillmore keeping Detroit music-rich history alive

These days, the bulk of the live-music buzz downtown centers around Kiss and their return to Cobo Arena, the house they made famous more than three decades ago. True music aficionados, though, are keeping a closer eye on The Fillmore Detroit, which until recently was called the State Theater, and which prior to that was called the Palms Theater, and which has always been an integral part in the Detroit entertainment scene. 

The Palms/State/Fillmore has hosted many big-name acts over the years, and the tradition continues this October when (are you ready for this?) Detroit will be treated to (don’t wet yourself!) a visit from none other than – Hanson! I’m no expert on the Hanson collection, but I have to believe their set will consist of more than a 90-minute version of “MmmBop!” Which, by the way, wouldn’t that be awesome!?!

Incidentally, the concert date is Oct. 10, I think. Lemme know how it goes.

(Kage Note: I plan on learning more about The Fillmore Detroit in the near future. Truthfully, since the casinos have failed on promises to bring big-name music downtown, the Fillmore has been – aside from the huge arena places - Detroit’s top venue for great live music. The Hanson date notwithstanding.)

The Detroit Burberry Game - Round 2

Kage 2 - UMJenn 0

Tigers' Magic Number: 8

With their sweep of the Indians complete, the Tigers' Magic Number now stands at 8, and no doubt most of you are wondering whether the Kage's Advanced Probabilities formula is still on track to hold true. Oh, ye of little faith!

The Tigers can still clinch on Monday against the Twins, but it's going to require a Tigers' sweep of Chicago this weekend, as well as a Royals' sweep of Minnesota. That would bring the Magic Number down to 2, and a win for the Tigers Monday against the Twins would finish it off. I, for one, like our chances.

Somewhere on a barge in Florida, Dave opened his Sports section, saw the box score and smiled, and then scratched himself. (It happens!)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tigers' Magic Number: 9

We're into the single-digits, so that's a good thing. Unfortunately, the Twins keep winning, so the Tigers' Magic Number only dropped one with last night's 11-3 hammering of Cleveland. The Tiges go for the sweep tonight, but we can assure you the Twins will not win this evening. That's cuz they don't play.

Somewhere on a barge in Florida, Dave opened his sports section, saw that Justin Verlander is due to pitch tonight, and thought, "Sweet, that should get our names in the same sentence again!"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Old gets new again; Mac’s on Third reopens in Detroit

In a growing crowd of high-profile glitzy bars (i.e. - Hard Rock, Cheli’s…), trendy club types (i.e.- Pulse) and renowned old-school favorites (i.e. – the Anchor, the Elwood,…), it’s not always easy business surviving as a downtown Detroit bar owner.

A couple of years ago, Mac’s on Third looked like another small-name casualty when the owners – following a death in the family – were left uninspired to stay in business. As a compromise, last year Mac’s (which sits only a couple hundred yards from Joe Louis Arena; see it in the background?) opened only on days when the Red Wings played at home. And when the season ended, so too did Mac’s, a bar with longtime roots in the area, the latest name to fill a building that’s been one tavern or another for more than a hundred years.

With encouragement from friends, the owners of Mac’s reopened a few weeks ago, just in time for the hockey season that is so crucial to their business, but with plans on operating a full-time schedule. Tucked behind the ancient, mammoth Fort Street Presbyterian Church, Mac’s features a standard bar-food menu with remarkably reasonable prices. (A burger, fries and Coke for lunch came to $6, and no, they don’t call it a Big Mac.)

The interior, though small, is nicely finished and clean, updated with a mix of new and old Detroit sports memorabilia. That’s Mac’s. Old Detroit, new again. And definitely worth a stop the next time you’re downtown.

TO VISIT MAC’S: Mac’s on Third is located at 624 Third St., just a block off Fort Street toward the river. Call them at 313-965-2269.

Tigers' Magic Number: 10

With Tuesday's 3-1 win over Cleveland, the Tigers' Magic Number dropped to 10. No doubt it's going to be an anxious rest of the week for Tigers fans, but here's something that should give you a vote of confidence. The Tigers put their playoff tickets on sale yesterday, beginning with first-round games against the Yankees. Maybe they know something we don't.

Somewhere on a barge in Florida, Dave flipped to his sports section, read the box scores and smiled. And then he put in an enormous chew.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It’s Long Gone! The last of Tiger Stadium falls

Until Monday morning, there was a 15-foot high sprout of the old building popping up behind the mesh construction fence. It didn’t look like much, but anyone familiar with the old Tiger Stadium could recognize that blue steel and gray concrete.

Now it’s gone.

The last of Tiger Stadium officially fell earlier this week, leaving only a pile of broken cement and snarled steel at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. Rumor has it that remnants of the remaining heap are available, although it might take a little creativity to get your hands on it. I plan on trying.

If I’m lucky enough to land some of it, I’ll be sure to post it here. And no, I won’t hoard whatever I’m able to grab. Hopefully they’ll be chunks of brick to go around. (Your Kage Rewards Points will qualify you for a piece or two, if it’s available.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Detroit’s No. 1 improvement: the RiverWalk

The Foxtown improvements in Detroit are sweet; most of us have seen them first-hand when we hit a ball game. Everybody’s read about or even experienced the new casinos. And I’ve made no secret that Campus Martius Park ranks as one of my favorite improvements downtown.

But the most incredible difference between Detroit today and Detroit of the 1980s is the RiverWalk, a stretch of land along the Detroit River that has gone from being nearly off-limits to one of the city’s greatest attractions. It seems like it’s been slow to grab the attention of suburbanites like us, but for anybody who hasn’t been down to the river lately, make a point to visit before winter arrives.

RiverWalk stretches all from the Joe Louis/Hart Plaza area to the Belle Isle Bridge, although there are certain portions that are still being finished. In fact, one of the major sections soon-to-open is technically a DNR-managed State Park, and will feature areas of wildlife and nature exhibits that showcase the animals and plant life that dominated the land when Detroit was founded over 300 years ago.

Even though this new section is fenced off at the moment, I checked it out recently. It’s impressive what the Detroit River Conservancy has been able to do down there. It’d be a great way to spend an hour or two. Kage Day Trip #1: Head downtown late morning one weekend and park near the RenCen. Walk for a while along the river and wind up at one of the bars nearby to watch a Michigan or Lions game. (Try the River’s Edge Grill near the RenCen.)

Tigers’ Magic Number: 11

Last week, the Kage's advanced probabilities formula indicated that the Tigers would clinch the division with a win over the Twins on Monday, Sept. 28. On the way to getting there, the formula predicted that the Tigers’ Magic Number would be down to 9 by the end of the recent three-game series against Minnesota. Instead, it’s at 11, a little off pace. No big deal.

Actually, were it not for a rookie outfielder losing a flyball in that stupid Metrodome roof Saturday evening, the Tigers’ Magic Number would be sitting at 9. Thankfully, the Kage’s formula takes into account such anomalies. We predict things will correct themselves sometime this week. We’re still calling for a Sept. 28 clinching. 

Thursday, September 17, 2009

UPDATE: Lafayette Building is coming down

Due to the continuing efforts of my hounding investigation (i.e. - I went and asked a different construction guy what was going on), I have discovered that the Lafayette Building in downtown Detroit is in fact being demolished. It's too bad, I always like to see those old buildings get fixed up when possible, but apparently the Lafayette is beyond repair. Even the preservationist groups in Detroit gave up trying to save it.

Here's my early guess as to what the property will be used for once the Lafayette is gone: You've probably heard news reports that Dan Gilbert, CEO of Quicken Loans, is moving the company headquarters from Livonia to downtown Detroit. Over the summer, Gilbert announced that Quuicken would temporarily lease office space in the Compuware Building, with plans to eventually move into its own new building somewhere nearby. Don't be shocked if you see a new Quicken Building towering over your coney dog a few years from now. But again, that's just a guess.

Tigers' win drops Magic Number to 13

A four-run Detroit rally erased Kansas City's 3-0 lead Wednesday evening, and the Tigers grabbed a 4-3 win to move one step closer to the post-season. The Kage's advanced probabilities formula is on track. The Magic Number now stands at 13. 

For daily updates of the Tigers' pennant run, check back often with the Kage, the only place online where you might find the names "Justin Verlander" and "Dave" used in the same sentence.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Work begins on Lafayette Building in Detroit – but what are they doing?

We don’t typically look to break news here on the Kage, largely because that would require actual work. All the same, we have conflicting info on the future of the old Lafayette Building downtown.

If you’re not familiar with the Lafayette, it’s that huge, wedge-shaped, hulking, rotting, crumbling pile of concrete and graffiti that towers over Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island. News reports throughout the summer said the Lafayette - despite efforts by groups looking to preserve the building - was slated to meet up with the wrecking ball soon. It was considered unsafe to even be near it. (You may recall the Lafayette was recently featured in this space because of the trees growing on its rooftops.) Throughout the summer, a mesh fence was constructed around the entire building to keep people away.

Anyway, I biked by this afternoon and noticed that work crews were setting up scaffolding and starting to tear the building apart. But one of the workers told me the place was being refurbished, not demolished. Hmmm. Either he was just goofin’ with me (which makes no sense), or something recent has happened to change the fate of the old building. I’ll post new info as I get it. (I’m still pulling for a renovation; it was pretty cool watching the old Fort Shelby get fixed up.)

Incidentally, if it does get demolished, the reports this summer all said that the coney island places would not be touched. Whew!

Calm down everyone, the Tigers’ Magic Number is still only 14

Somewhere down in Florida, Dave is sitting on a barge reading the sports section, and his shorts just climbed a little higher after seeing the Tigers got blasted 11-1 last night. Easy, blonde boy. Everything’s gonna be fine.

To put Dave – and a few other Tiger fans – at ease, we at the Kage did a little math and were able to pin down precisely when the Tigers will clinch the American League Central Division pennant. Using an advanced probabilities formula (so advanced it takes into consideration factors such as the aerodynamic benefits to Magglio Ordonez since he had nine pounds of hair lopped from the back of his head) we were able to conclude that the Tigers will not repeat the collapse of 2006.

So chill out. Aside from not knowing who two of their five starters are, the Tigers are poised to finish this thing off. Luckily for them, Twins fans still don’t know three of their starting five, and they’ve been pitching for them since July!

Detroit-area fans will be pleased to know that the Tigers will clinch the pennant at home on Monday, Sept. 28, against none other than the Minnesota Twins. It’s the first of a four-game set, and the Tigers’ Magic Number will be down to 2 when the game starts. (Among our other findings: The Tigers will win 6-4, Curtis Granderson will score the game-winning run, and it’s gonna be chilly, so wear a sweatshirt.)

Photo Credit: UMJenn

Monday, September 14, 2009

Visit Detroit…you’ll have a ball!

Every now and then in Detroit, you come across something that defies logic. Like, for instance, a bowling ball sitting on Lafayette Boulevard, nestled up to a brand new Chevy Impala. It’s probably fair to wonder how it got there, but since we haven’t any idea, we figured this a good time to make something up. Here’s our top guess.

Still penniless despite hours of standing at the street corner, a homeless man finally got fed up and chucked the ball in disgust due to the lack of response to his hand-made sign that read: “Will pick up spares for food”.

Got a better guess? Let’s hear it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Check out the CMU shrine at Comerica Park

Given the sports news of the weekend, it seems fitting that we revisit the enormous Dan LeFevour mural on the backside of the leftfield scoreboard at Comerica Park.

For those who don't know, LeFevour is the quarterback for Central Michigan's football team.

For those who don't know, Central beat Michigan State Saturday.

For those who don't know, we at the Kage root for CMU.

...so there was much rejoicing!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Commemorating 9/11 in downtown Detroit

Waiting for Mayor Dave Bing to say a few words during the 9/11 commemoration at Campus Martius Park Friday morning, I was startled when I looked to my right and found Robert Bobb seated next me. (Bobb, in case you’re not aware, is the Detroit Public Schools emergency financial manager, whose job it is to try and squeeze a quart of juice from a single orange.)

It suddenly it dawned on me: Man, this Kage press pass will get you about anywhere! (Little do they know that my Kage press pass is actually a quickly flashed, laminated Alan Trammell rookie card.)

Anyway, the 9/11 commemoration downtown was a neat experience, with all of the uniformed officers, the motorcade circling the park, and the local higher-ups offering a few words. The color guard was on hand, marching to sounds of a guy playing the bagpipes. At one point, an Army helicopter flew overhead. It was truly a unique experience.

Bing was brief (unlike a couple of the event’s windier speakers) and eloquent, tipping his hat to members of the police and fire departments who were on hand. I wish I had had my better camera with me, but at some point I'll get around to posting some the few decent iPhone pictures I took.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Low-flying plane buzzes over downtown Detroit

Not to try scare the crap out of anybody, but a few of us at work were startled Wednesday afternoon when a low-flying plane flew over downtown Detroit and circled a few times before leaving.

At about 5:40, a couple of women ahead of me on the sidewalk stopped and pointed above the nearby rooftops. I hadn’t heard it (I was listening to the Traveling Wilburys…nice!) so I pulled off my headphones and looked. The plane had disappeared, but a minute later it circled back around. And then it did it again.

The picture I was able to get doesn’t do justice to how low this thing was flying. Naturally, being two days shy of Sept. 11, the women started thinking the worst. Every time the plane disappeared they’d mutter something like, “I hope the RenCen is still there.”

I did a little research on the incident later (i.e. – I Googled it.) and was surprised that neither the Detroit Free Press nor The Detroit News websites made mention of it, especially since the thing went right over their building on Lafayette. I wish I knew more about planes, because this was no single-engine job. It wasn’t a commercial airliner either.

Like I said, not to scare the crap out of anybody, but if you've heard anything about it, let me know.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What’s buried under Campus Martius Park?

Man, this would have been a great place for Kwame to hide proof of those text messages. The man just wasn’t being creative.

On July 23, 2004, the Detroit Legacy 300 Committee – a group spearheading the celebration of Detroit’s 300th birthday – buried a time capsule at the base of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Campus Martius. Truthfully, I don’t think the infamous text message side deal was done until later, but wouldn’t that have been a great way to keep it hidden for 100 years? And anyway, it’s not like Kwame didn’t have plenty of other stuff worth hiding.

It begs the question, though: What are they going to unearth on July 23, 2104 when they open the time capsule? What was happening in Detroit in 2004 that people will consider most memorable? Keys to a Navigator? A Kid Rock wife-beater?

Since none of us will be around when it happens, we’ll just have to guess. Post your thoughts in the comments box. All entries will be automatically entered to win our grand prize – a Tide To-Go Stain Stick – so guess today and guess often! (Anonymous comments are frowned upon, so at least come up with a clever handle that gives us a clue who you are.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Detroit Jazz Festival is one, uh, tasty happenin’

The white guy with the gray ponytail was sweet. Earlier today, he was lounging under a tent next to a stage in Campus Martius Park, getting ready for this weekend’s Jazz Festival.

“Be sure to check out the Chase stage tonight, too,” he said, pointing toward a second stage a half-block away. “There’ll be some tasty jazz happenin’ tonight.”

Jazz people are great.

Of the many of Detroit’s annual events, the Jazz Festival, I’ve been told, is probably the coolest one I’ve never been to. In addition to those two stages at Campus Martius, there are three others down along the river, and a weekend lineup of music that has jazz people slobbering.

In seeing it during set-up today, though, I realized that the Jazz Festival is not just an event for the jazz aficionado, music types. Woodward Avenue, from Campus Martius nearly all the way to Jefferson, looks like the main strip at a carnival, lined with vendors selling elephant ears, cotton candy and all that other healthy stuff.

Many of the streets are blocked to traffic, and people on foot were settling in four hours before the music was scheduled to start. If you’re looking for a non-sports reason to make it downtown before summer ends, this might be the perfect time. The weather is supposed to be beautiful. The two areas of downtown hosting the festival are renovated and ready. And the music, by all reports, will be tasty.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Clean Downtown program is creating a better Detroit

If you remember Project WACT, raise your hand. (Now put it back down and realize you’re sitting in front of a computer screen.)

Anyway, I thought of WACT earlier today when I saw one of the Next Detroit: Clean Downtown trucks drive past the building where I work. Same mission as WACT. Clean something.

With Project WACT (an acronym for “We Are Cleaning This”, and I have to credit Dave for creating the name), we borrowed a half-dozen canoes from a local canoe livery in Mt. Pleasant, some garbage bags from the city’s parks and rec department, and paddled a stretch of the Chip River collecting trash. It was fun, sort of our way of doing more on Earth Day than sitting out in front of Warriner Hall listening to people discuss the evils of Styrofoam.

In Detroit, the task is a little more challenging, and calls for more ammunition than canoes and garbage bags. Luckily, Roger Penske has pretty deep pockets, and he teamed Downtown Detroit Partnership to get the ball rolling on a Clean Downtown initiative that, trust me, is making a difference. He started by loaning six trucks, like the one you see pictured. And through donations from local businesses and government agencies, Clean Downtown employs 60 people who walk the streets wearing bright green vests, picking up garbage, power-washing sidewalks, and basically just making downtown a more pleasant place to be.

Want to read more about Clean Downtown? Check out www.cleandowntown.org.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rosa Parks Transit Center: Detroit’s big bus stop

If you’ve seen it from a few blocks away, perhaps looking up Cass, you might think a half-dozen huge sailboats have dropped anchor in the middle of downtown Detroit.

Nope. It’s the recently opened Rosa Parks Transit Center, the hub of all Detroit Department of Transportation buses, and in talking to a few of the folks who live within its sprawling (but on the verge of possibly being trimmed) routes, it’s a pretty nice addition to the city. Architecturally, particularly in Detroit, it’s an oddity.

The building’s main entrance faces Cass, and opens into what feels like a small airport. There’s nothing odd about this part of the building; it’s a sharp, if not extravagant, building, and does a nice job of helping clean up that section of Cass. After you get your bus route info and pay your fare, you exit out the other side of the building and wind up beneath those huge, white canopies that stand out from blocks away. In all, the RPTC spreads out over nearly 2.5 acres.

Here’s the thing about the RPTC. It’s not a tourist service, at least not at this point. It’s not even a suburbanite service, unless you live within a few miles of the city. But if I didn’t know better, I’d think someone in the city is using a little foresight, planning for the day when there will be more demand to get Detroiters from home in the neighborhoods to work downtown. You know, the job for which people in most cities rely on a subway system.

Cheli’s Chili Bar is a true Detroit original

You can take the boy out of the city, but…

Please don’t take his restaurant. With former Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios looking to finish his career in another NHL city (reports say he’s chatted with Nashville), it seems a good time to give a nod to Cheli’s Chili Bar in downtown Detroit. Of all the great sports bar hangouts Detroit has to offer, Cheli’s is an original in so many ways.

Featuring name recognition and a prime location, the four-level bar/restaurant across the street from Comerica Park was an instant fan favorite when the place opened shortly after Comerica Park. And from its rooftop patio, which is only open during Tigers’ games, Cheli’s also features a sweet view into Comerica. You can’t see the game, in fact you can only see a small corner of leftfield and the huge scoreboard, but with the game playing over the radio and on TVs nearby, it’s still a great atmosphere.

On your walk up the stairs to the patio, you’ll see the “private” door that leads to the suite where Chelios and his hockey buds hang out. (I hear Gretzky is somewhat of a regular.) From what I hear, even though Chelios won’t be wearing a Red Wings uniform this season, his restaurant isn’t going anywhere.

I hope not. If anything, Detroit could use a few more investors like him.