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Tax Breaks Approved, Outrage At Meeting To Discuss Plans For New Red Wings Arena

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This aerial photo shows the planned location of the new Red Wings arena and entertainment complex, downtown Detroit. (Credit: Bill Szumanski/WWJ Newsradio 950)

This aerial photo shows the planned location of the new Red Wings arena and entertainment complex, downtown Detroit. (Credit: Bill Szumanski/WWJ Newsradio 950)

DETROIT (WWJ) – The Detroit City Council has approved a financing plan — including potential tax breaks—  in the event plans go ahead for a new Red Wings arena.

Also on Friday, council voted to support changing the boundaries of the city’s Downtown Development District,  to include land where the project could be constructed. A vote on a transfer of city-owned land was postponed.

There was some outrage from an overflow crowd at a special session focused on the issue; with a number of area business owners and residents, opposed to the use of any taxpayer money in such a deal, voicing their concerns.

Among them is Tom Stephens with the group “Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management.”

“What a strange situation this is that the city of Detroit is bankrupt, and yet the leaders of our state are proposing to spend over $280 million of taxpayer money to support a single business, that is owned by a millionaire, who could afford to do this for his own business,” Stephens said.

The proposed arena and entertainment complex, planned by Illitch-owned Olympia Entertainment, would be located on the west side of Woodward, between downtown and Midtown — kitty corner from Comerica Park.

Over 35 percent of the $650 million project would come from public tax dollars.

Opponents say the project would be a misuse of public funds.

“Whether intentional or not, there have been some inappropriate relationships and secret deals,” said one woman, who spoke out at Friday’s meeting. “I support the development of Detroit —I’m currently a resident of downtown Detroit — and I support development economic and otherwise, but I do not think this is the appropriate way to go about it.”

Said another woman, “The fact that we are discussing the potential to pay taxpayer dollars to a company worth billions of dollars to build a second arena, when the company didn’t pay millions of dollars on the first area, is ludicrous to me.”

Representatives from labor union have spoken in favor of the project and say they’ve been given assurances that their members will have the opportunity to work.

In the agreement between the Illitch family and the Detroit Development Authority, about $200 million would go toward improving the area’s entertainment district. Plans also include housing, office, retail space and parking decks.

Under the plan, Joe Louis Arena — the current home of the Wings — will  be torn down.

Assuming all goes well, the arena is expected to be ready for the Red Wings by 2016 or 2017.

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