Duggan: Chene Park will be renamed for Aretha Franklin

The band and vocalists perform "Rock Steady" with Regina Belle, not pictured.  The Aretha Franklin Tribute Concert at Chene Park Ampitheatre in Detroit on Aug. 30, 2018. 
(Robin Buckson / Detroit News)

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says he plans to rename Chene Park to Aretha Franklin Park to honor the iconic singer.

"Our beautiful waterfront jewel will be Aretha Franklin Park," he said. "And when performers from generations to come from around the world come here, they'll be reminded that they are performing at the home of the Queen of Soul."

The mayor said he would be recommending a proposal to the Detroit City council to make the change.

"And the mayor just got re-elected," Bishop Charles Ellis III, pastor of Greater Grace Temple, said jokingly. 

Chene Park was the site of Thursday's tribute concert to Franklin, where a sold-out crowd of more than 6,000 fans gathered to watch a sprawling cast of singers pay tribute to the Queen of Soul.

More: Musicians honor 'love and legacy' of Aretha Franklin

Duggan was followed by Council President Brenda Jones, who issued a resolution for the name change. She said an ordinance would follow, "which is law," to ensure the park would always bear her name. 

"Aretha was world-famous, but she was more than just a singer or a recording artist. Her humanitarian efforts, larger-than-life heart and silent generosity will always be remembered," Jones said.

Longtime Aretha Franklin fans sisters Sarah and Thersia Ganaway said they’re in favor of Chene Park being renamed Aretha Franklin Park.

“I think it’s a beautiful thing,” Sarah Ganaway said. “I can’t wait.”

Dressed in T-shirts with Franklin’s image, the sisters arrived at the church late Friday morning to spend time with other fans honoring the Queen of Soul.

“We didn’t necessarily need to be inside, but we wanted to be in the area,” Thersia Ganaway said. “What we found at all the event is that everybody is like family even though we’re not related. She’s bonded everybody.”

East side resident Lanetta Lewis visited Chene Park's box office Friday to get tickets for a weekend show and also called the tribute "beautiful."

"I think she deserves that because she's Detroit's own," said Lewis, 37, who broke into song as she shared some of her favorite Franklin tunes, including "Dr. Feelgood" and "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man."

"I grew up off of Aretha Franklin's music," added Lewis, who said her aunt visited the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History this week to pay her respects. "Everybody just loves Aretha Franklin, my whole family."

Duggan said the single largest event in the history of the park was the 30th anniversary celebration, where Franklin was the performer. 

"It's a place that belongs to all Detroiters and those concerts are now drawing 100,000 concert goers a year," Duggan said.

Chene Park opened in spring 1985, after former Mayor Coleman Young said he wanted a venue for Detroiters that would rival Pine Knob, which has since been renamed DTE Energy Music Theatre.

The park was named for Charles Chene, a French immigrant who owned land along the Detroit River.

Franklin already has a street named for her in Detroit

Shena Riley, who also stopped at the park Friday to pick up event tickets, said she loves all of Franklin's music and that the name change will be a fitting honor.

"She covers all generations," said Riley, 33, of Highland Park. "She has music that touches people of all walks of life."

Detroit News Staff Writer Christine Ferretti contributed to this report.

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