Public money approved, Red Wings now say they’ll build arena “at the right time”

Now that the state of Michigan has approved bankrupt Detroit spending $284.5 million on a new Red Wings arena — the Detroit city council still has to approve the final lease, though that doesn’t seem like it’ll be a major hurdle — Wings owner Mike Ilitch is moving ahead to cash the check and build his new $650 million arena-plus-retail/housing/office-district … um, someday?

An official for the Ilitch-owned Olympia Entertainment company told MLive on Tuesday at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena there’s no timetable for the project proposed near Comerica Park and the Fox Theatre and “not much to comment” about it.

“We’re going to do it at the right time and make sure that it’s done right working with all the constituents that we have to work with,” said Tom Wilson, Olympia’s president and CEO. “But there’s nothing to report at this point.”

I’m not actually sure how long Ilitch can sit on the money without spending it — right now the Detroit Downtown Development Authority is just authorized to sell bonds for the project, so it’s certainly conceivable that if the DDA at some time in the future decided that this was an inane idea after all, they could call the whole thing off. Clearly the Red Wings owner isn’t concerned about that at the moment, though, so he’s happy enough to wait for a market to develop for the $200 million in other crap he’s promised to surround his $450 million arena with, so the public subsidy looks smaller by comparison. You just have to hope he doesn’t plan on building the arena first, then leaving the other stuff that’s coming out of his own pocket for later or never … but no, no one would be so fiendish as to do that.


4 comments on “Public money approved, Red Wings now say they’ll build arena “at the right time”

  1. Well, it seems like it’s only $254.5M he has to find a way to spend now…

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/mlb/texas-rangers-trade-ian-kinsler-to-detroit-tigers-for-prince-fielder?ymd=20131120&content_id=64082480&vkey=news_mlb

    Of course, the title should read “for Prince Fielder and $30m”, but MLB.com isn’t keen on putting that sort of info above the fold.

    Yes, yes, I know, Illitch can’t actually bill the city for the cost of dumping Fielder’s (2yr old?) contract on someone else… but it would be a more difficult decision to make if he didn’t know he had $284.5m in welfare from poor Detroit residents coming his way…

  2. Tom;

    I’m not siding with the Wings on this, far from it… but the Joe is about 30 years old. More importantly, it was built just a few years before the “new wave” of arenas with loges/luxury boxes were built, changing the economic base of sports permanently, so far as we can tell.

    I’m sure the existing building could be renovated to fix this, though it would be a compromise solution of course. I suspect the real issue for Illitch is that the years of 20k sellouts every night are now well and truly over – partly because the team is no longer a top level contender every year, and partly because Detroit is so economically crippled. He seems to be hoping that a shiny new building will fix at least some of his revenue related issues (which aren’t as bad as many other NHL team’s revenue issues, but still…)