Ilitch proposes new arena and entertainment district Downtown

By CHRIS ZADOROZNY, Sports Editor

Last week, Little Caesar’s pizza magnate Mike Ilitch proposed a brand new entertainment complex for the city of Detroit, somewhere in the Downtown area.

The $650 million project is supposed to create an estimated 5,500 jobs, 8,300 new positions and over $1.8 billion in economic impact.

“It’s always been my dream to once again see a vibrant Downtown,” said Ilitch in a press release. “From the time we bought the Fox Theatre, I could envision a downtown where the streets were bustling and people were energized. 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 to keep us moving toward that vision.”

Joe Louis Arena (Chris Zadorozny)

Joe Louis Arena (Chris Zadorozny)

The project has no set start date for construction as there are many hurdles it has to clear before anything happens. First and foremost, a site must be chosen for the new arena. Many speculate it to just three sites, two in particular being the most obvious. The first site is behind the Fox Theatre, known as the parking lot desert. Ilitch owns much of the empty parking lots and could easily create an arena/entertainment district in the Foxtown area.

The other obvious choice is north of I-75 between Woodward and Cass streets. Many of the parcels have been sold, but none have been linked back to Ilitch. The only hint we have is that Ilitch is backing the M-1 Light Rail to New Center with a stop at Temple Street.

The final choice is near his wife’s property, the Motor City Casino. It’s not really near Downtown, or at least in the close vicinity, but it’s a third option that could be considered, although unlikely.

Among the obstacles the project needed to overcome, one has already been accomplished. The development would be privately-funded and anything else would be done by the Downtown Development Authority. No taxes would be needed to finance the development, which the Senate passed last Wednesday.

One huge part of the project is the residential, retail and office area it plans to create. At least a year is needed to plan the facility, and then another two for building it. The Detroit Economic Growth Corporation would also have to contribute to the project, and would need help from the state for tax incentives.

Ilitch built Comerica Park, mostly with private money, replacing Tiger Stadium back in the late 1990s, moving in 2000 to the Downtown Detroit ballpark. He also owns the Fox Theatre, City Theatre, and the Hockeytown Cafe, which is encompassed by Olympia Entertainment.

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