And the campaign for a new Detroit Red Wings arena has been officially launched: As previously reported, it would cost $650 million and include a whole bunch of crap that isn’t actually a hockey arena (retail space, offices, housing, a hotel, a space elevator). And Detroit development chief George Jackson, who made yesterday’s announcement — it was technically of the Detroit Development Authority giving its go-ahead to the project — wants all approvals in place by the end of the year.
The arena development, which would cover a huge swath of land at the edge of downtown Detroit and adjacent to Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch’s Fox Theater and Comerica Park, would be paid for by bonds sold by the state Michigan Strategic Fund. Those bonds, in turn, would be paid off by:
- Between $12.8 million and $15 million a year in property taxes collected by the DDA that would otherwise go to city schools — a TIF, in essence. That’s probably enough to pay off between $150 million and $200 million in bonds.
- $64.5 million in other DDA revenues.
- An annual “concession fee” of $11.5 million a year from Ilitch, enough to pay off maybe $150 million in construction costs, depending on the interest rate.
- $200 million in additional spending by Ilitch on the non-arena stuff.
Tacking on the hotels and such to the deal allows Jackson (and Ilitch) to call this deal 56% private, though even the math-challenged should be able to see from the above that the public will end up putting in way more than half of the $450 million arena cost. And that’s before we even account for the hefty property tax break that Ilitch would be getting by putting the state’s name on the arena deed in place of his own.
The project still needs more official approvals, though presumably not from the Detroit city council, which has been barred from running the city’s own finances because the governor of Michigan doesn’t trust them to. (The governor of Michigan is very untrusting.) Which creates the slightly bizarre scenario of the state of Michigan forcing the city of Detroit to spend its tax money on a development project because it’s out of money for schools — but Detroit Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson, for one, isn’t worried:
I’ve never fully bought into the idea of sports stadiums as economic development; the math never really seems to work out, and there are strong, legitimate arguments to make about whether tax dollars ought to go to these kinds of projects.
But as girders of momentum and builders on buzz and excitement? I think the case in downtown Detroit right now argues pretty strongly in favor of our sports venues.
“Girders of momentum.” Now there’s an image to envision stadium projects by — even if it does bring to mind this.