Detroit Arena Plan Takes Flight

The NHL’s Detroit Red Wings have been itching for a replacement for the aging Joe Louis Arena for years and team owner Mike Ilitch appears poised to deliver with a new plan for a $650 million facility and surrounding entertainment district.

In a presentation in front of a state Senate panel Dec. 4, Ilitch explained how a “state-of-the-art, multipurpose events center” could help create thousands of jobs and generate $1.8 billion in economic impact for the region, according to the Detroit News.

“From the time we bought the Fox Theatre, I could envision a downtown where the streets were bustling and people were energized,” he said. “It’s been a slow process at times, but we’re getting there now and a lot of great people are coming together to make it happen. It’s going to happen and I want us to keep moving toward that vision.”

The Ilitch family’s Olympia Development company has been approved to apply for more than $12 million in downtown development funds for the project, but it’s unclear where the rest of the money will come from.

The project already has a fan in Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who told the News, “A development of this magnitude, anchored by a world-class, multipurpose events center, would be a vital contribution to a more vibrant downtown and the strengthening of our city’s economy.”

Others weren’t quite so positive.

“The bottom line is that if this is a viable project, no taxpayer money should be involved at all,” Michael LeFaive of the free-market think tank Mackinac Center told the paper. “If Mr. Ilitch thought investing in Detroit would make it more vibrant, then that’s great news, but the fact he believes subsidies are necessary belies that assertion.”