With the Detroit Athletic Club’s 125th anniversary coinciding with Opening Day, the club’s long-standing connection to the Detroit Tigers was celebrated—and its new outdoor restrooms earned acclaim as “the ultimate in lavish lavatories.”
Fortuitously, the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Detroit Athletic Club (DAC) on April 5, 1887, matched up perfectly this year with the Major League Baseball schedule, which had the Detroit Tigers opening at home on that day with a 1 PM, nationally televised contest against the Boston Red Sox.
The DAC has had a close, long-standing connection with major league baseball and the Tigers. All but two of the 10 owners of the local team have been club members, including James Burns, who founded the team in 1901, and current owner Mike Illitch, who has belonged to the club for nearly 20 years.
Today, DAC’s downtown location literally backs up to the Tigers’ current home, Comerica Park; the club’s iconic, Albert Kahn-designed clubhouse (which will also mark a significant anniversary in 2012, turning 100) is often seen when TV cameras pan through the outfield during broadcasts of Tigers’ games.
DAC has taken full advantage of its proximity to the new ballpark (and also to nearby Ford Field, home of the National Football League’s Detroit Lions and site of the NCAA men’s college basketball Final Four in 2009) since Comerica opened in 2000. The club built a Stadium Pavilion that overlooks both venues and provides popular outdoor party space (great views of the baseball field can also be enjoyed from within the clubhouse). Because of the festive atmosphere that it provides on game days, The Pavilion has helped the DAC see dramatic spikes in its membership in recent years (see “City Clubs Rising,” C&RB, November 2011).
That atmosphere was especially lively on April 5, thanks not only to the DAC’s anniversary and the perfect Opening Day spring weather, but also because of the high anticipation of the Tigers’ new season after the off-season acquisition of slugging first baseman Prince Fielder, son of popular former Tiger Cecil Fielder.
Despite all of the historic significance tied to the occasion, however, coverage of the DAC’s connection to the game and the team in the April 5th Detroit Free Press focused on what the newspaper called “the ultimate in lavish lavatories.” Upon visiting the Pavilion to do a story on its connection to the Opening Day festivities, the newspaper’s reporter was most taken with a new addition this year—a custom-built outside restroom the club had built to provide better facilities for crowds that can swell to over 600, now that it has become such a happening spot.
“Guests at downtown’s most upscale tailgates at last have a proper place to potty,” the Free Press article said. “The prestigious Detroit Athletic Club—which will entertain more than 600 members and guests in its back parking lot before the Tigers’ home opener—will christen a luxurious new loo today. The $60,000-plus, custom-built posh porta-potty, as it’s unofficially dubbed, replaces the plastic-sided portable toilets of years past, which some guests—especially ladies—didn’t like.
“Often, [the guests] would ask to use the club restrooms,” the article continued, “but the DAC forbids denim inside the building, so requests by those in jeans had to be denied. It was awkward.”
The article then quoted DAC Assistant Manager Craig Cutler, who said, “they were the best kind of porta-potties, but it just wasn’t what you expect here. So we needed to accommodate that.”
The article described how DAC’s Pavilion now provides restroom facilities in a “white, trailer-size structure [that is] heated and air-conditioned. Inside, it’s finished with skylights, faux-stone counters, porcelain sinks, chrome handles, hot and cold running water, maple woodwork, paneled stall doors, framed artwork and diaper-changing units.”
Stone counters couldn’t be used, Cutler told the newspaper, because the unit will stay outside all year.
“The amenities are, for the most part, what you would find in the clubhouse,” Cutler added.
The Free Press article then described how at DAC tailgates held before Tigers and Lions games and other special events, “guests enjoy food cooked by DAC chefs on flat-top grills, full bar service, overhead fans, music — and now, fancy johns.”
The article ended by acknowledging that this year’s Opening Day tailgate “coincidentally [marked] the 125th anniversary of the club’s founding on April 5, 1887.”
“Asked what [the club’s] founding fathers would think of the new amenity, Cutler smiled,” the article concluded, “ ‘I think they would be pleased,’ ” he said.
DAC Executive Manager J.G. Ted Gillary, CCM, CCE, was typically good-natured about the focus of the local coverage. “It sure has generated a lot of positive comments,” he said of the article that centered around the new outdoor restroom.
“I was also able to do a TV interview and focus on the importance of our 125th and the link between the DAC and the Tigers,” Gillary told C&RB. “We are a sports town, so [Opening Day] was a Detroit holiday.”
And that holiday had a happy ending that extended the celebration at the Stadium Pavilion and throughout the DAC, with the Tigers pulling out a walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth inning.blog