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Backers, Opponents Weigh In At Hearing On Red Wings Arena

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Downtown Detroit, looking south on Woodward Avenue. (Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Downtown Detroit, looking south on Woodward Avenue. (Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

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DETROIT (WWJ) – In spite of repeated claims by Downtown Development Authority to the contrary, some opponents of a planned new Detroit Red Wings arena continue to insist that the multi-million dollar project will end up being a burden on tax-payers.

During a public hearing on the issue on Thursday, Detroit City Council members heard from multiple residents who oppose the project.

“Because they’re in too much trouble — they can’t even finish the damn jail cells, so how can the afford to do something else?” said one Detroiter. “Think about it.”

Detroit Economic Growth Corporation chief George Jackson stressed that much of the funding comes from private donors.

“And, you know, I’m of the frame of mind in terms of not looking a gift horse in the mouth,” Jackson said. “If we have a funding source that is not raising taxes in the city of Detroit — not coming from the general fund of the city of Detroit — I think that … basically, it would be kind of irresponsible of us to us to say, ‘No. We don’t want it.'”

Jackson stressed that the arena agreement commits to jobs for Detroiters and vendor opportunities for Detroit companies.

Tony Stewart of the carpenters and millwrights union, was among those speaking out in favor of the project.

“We need jobs,” said Stewart. “I know from a fact, from my experience in dealing with everything the Ilitchs have done, I know for a fact we’ll get a fair opportunity to get city residents on jobs and get ‘em trained, so they can move on and get jobs on other projects …”

The new arena and entertainment district is planned to be built in Downtown Detroit — north of I-75 and west of Woodward Ave., not far from Comerica Park.

The city’s recent bankruptcy filing is not expected to interfere with the project, which backers say consists of 56 percent private investment from Olympia Development and 44 percent public financing from tax capture in the Detroit Downtown Development Authority area.

The arena is expected to be ready for the Red Wings by 2016 or 2017. [MORE HERE]

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