LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A state board on Wednesday unanimously gave the go-ahead for a new Red Wings hockey arena in downtown Detroit to be paid for in part with $284 million in tax dollars even as the broke city works through bankruptcy proceedings.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and others defended against criticism that the $650 million project should be financed entirely with private money because the city currently can't provide basic services and retirees are facing cuts in their pensions. The 18,000-seat arena is designed to be a catalyst for more development and to link downtown and midtown, turning a blighted area into a business, residential and entertainment district.
"This is part of investing in Detroit's future," said Snyder, a Republican who blessed a state-appointed emergency manager's request to take the city into bankruptcy last week. "That's the message we need to get across. ... As we stabilize the city government's finances, as we address those issues and improve services, Detroit moves from a place where people might have had a negative impression — although there are great things already going on — to being a place that will be recognized across the world as a place of great value and a place to invest."
The Michigan Strategic Fund Board approved the Detroit Downtown Development Authority's request to use economic development taxes for the project. The board also took a preliminary step toward issuing $450 million in bonds to build the arena, to be paid off in no more than 30 years by the Red Wings' owner and the city.
Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch has long wanted a replacement for the 32-year-old Joe Louis Arena located a few miles away. The new complex would be close to the Lions' Ford Field and Tigers' Comerica Park near Interstate 75 and Woodward Avenue.
Under the plan, the authority would own the arena and event center complex. The Red Wings' owner would have exclusive rights to use, manage and operate it, and hold naming rights.
No new taxes or funds from the cash-strapped city would be needed.
The state Legislature last year approved a bill to help finance the project by allowing the use of tax dollars collected by the downtown development authority.