Despite Bankruptcy: Detroit Plans Downtown Hockey Arena

Amid all the uproar in Detroit lately about impending bankruptcy, endangered pensions and possible sale of precious artwork, there’s been surprisingly little buzz about a topic that tends to ignite controversy whenever it arises in U.S. cities.

That would be the use of public tax dollars to finance sports stadiums.

In Detroit, the Ilitch family’s proposed $650-million arena and entertainment district anchored by the Red Wings hockey team is the latest big sports project. The plan calls for $283 million, or 44% of the money, to come from public funds requiring no new taxes.

This Wednesday, the Michigan Strategic Fund board is expected to vote on issuing 30-year bonds to support the project. Board members are to hear further details in a conference call Monday.

There was some opposition in Lansing last December to tax-capture legislation that enabled the so-called “catalyst development project” in Detroit to move forward.

But when the city’s Downtown Development Authority gave approval for the arena deal last month — a few days after Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr called for painful sacrifices across the city to resolve Detroit’s fiscal crisis — hardly a peep of protest was heard.

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