New Detroit entertainment district breaks ground

Project offers hope and controversy

By Joe Zylka
News Editor

On Sept. 25, Detroit city leaders ceremoniously broke ground on the new sports arena that will house the Detroit Red Wings and many other forms of entertainment starting in late 2017. The massive 45-block entertainment district will include residential neighborhoods, office buildings and the new hockey arena. It will be located on Woodward Avenue, across I-75 if one was walking to it from Comerica Park.

The new arena will hold over 20,000 fans and force the closure of Joe Louis Arena located on the Detroit River, near the Cobo Center.

“I think what the Ilitch organization is doing is outstanding,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in an interview with Local 4 news. “It’s going to be a lot of jobs for Detroiters, investment in our community and I love the fact that we’re building a neighborhood and not just building a hockey rink.”

Schoolcraft freshman Kyle Donehue agreed with Duggan, saying, “The new arena is not only a good idea to support the Red Wings, but is also a great way to improve Detroit’s image.”

However, recent controversy has emerged about how the arena/entertainment district will be paid for. The project is expected to cost a staggering $650 million, but an estimated $250 million will come from Michigan taxpayers, which means almost 40 percent of the entertainment district will be publicly funded.

“I don’t like the idea of paying for it,” said Angie Tsallis, Plymouth Township resident and taxpayer. “Ilitch has a lot of money. Why can’t he pay for all of it? If he can give so much to charity, he could certainly do the same for his business and not need public funding.”

The issue with public funding is Wall Street banks are nervous about Detroit’s bankruptcy, so they want more public money involved to help offset those concerns. The issuing of bonds will pay for the entertainment district, but because the bonds are expected to receive a low rating, banks like Merrill Lynch (who will be buying the bonds) want the $15 million per year cap on public funding removed. While that likely will not happen, Wall Street wants a reserve account established, just in case.

“It will create a lot of jobs in order to build it and sustain it,” said Tsallis. “It will be a really positive force in Detroit; hopefully people move into the city because of it and help grow Detroit’s economy.”

Time will tell how much resistance will come from taxpayers if they are forced to dish out more dollars, but the positives of the project cannot be denied.

*Featured image from google images.