Tigers still backing Big Three

DETROIT -- The Tigers are making sure General Motors Corp. has a presence at Comerica Park despite the automaker's decision to stop sponsoring the team.

But joining the struggling Detroit automaker on the prime advertising spot GM once paid handsomely to occupy are its two U.S. competitors: Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC.

Amid sinking profits and the threat of bankruptcy, GM has discontinued sponsorship of the popular General Motors Fountain which sends up showers of water with every Detroit home run.

Tigers' owner Mike Ilitch has given the spot to each of the area's car companies this season at no cost instead of selling the space to other bidders, the team's vice president of communications Ron Colangelo said Wednesday.

"It's a community decision, not a business decision," Colangelo said of Ilitch's response. "He cares about the city of Detroit. This is something he wanted to do. It's for the Big Three."

As Detroit prepares for Friday's home opener against Texas, finishing touches were being made to the stadium's interior.

Some of Detroit-based GM's vehicles were displayed in past seasons at the fountain. So far, there are no cars, trucks or sport utility vehicles this year. Ford and Chrysler logos have been erected on each side of the General Motors name. Underneath is a sign that reads: "The Detroit Tigers support our automakers."

GM's world headquarters along the Detroit riverfront is visible over the ballpark's right-field wall and seats.

GM and Chrysler are slashing costs during massive restructuring while trying to rebound with billions in government aid.

"We have discontinued our sponsorships of a number of MLB teams, including the Tigers, as part of the significant cuts we've made to our advertising and promotional spending," GM said Wednesday in a statement.

"GM and the Tigers have had a long relationship and this was a difficult, but necessary decision, as we work through the current business challenges."

The automaker said it appreciates Ilitch's gesture. "Thanks to Mr. Ilitch, we still have a presence in the park," GM said.