Days after Detroit filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, the Michigan Strategic Fund board approved $450 million worth of bonds to finance construction of a new arena for the Red Wings.
The decision has been questioned by many in Detroit, who wonder whether the city should be devoting significant time and $284 million in tax dollars to its hockey team while its economy is in shambles.
Still, there was unanimous approval by the Michigan Strategic Fund for the project and it has the backing of Gov. Rick Snyder. Snyder noted that the project is estimated to create 4,380 new construction jobs and allow the city to bump up taxes.
The arena “should increase the tax base of the city longer term, and should increase the employment opportunities for Detroiters,” Snyder said. "So this should create a better environment for Detroit long-term, and that will be better for all of us."
The arena is part of a larger, $650 million, 45-block entertainment district that includes shopping, residential and office space. Proponents hope the 18,000-seat arena and the surrounding area helps revitalize Detroit and provide a link between downtown and midtown.
Opponents say there are more worthy causes for the tax dollars.
"Now that the city's actually in bankruptcy those concerns are even more justified at this point," Senate Democratic spokesman Bob McCann said Wednesday. "We're all supportive of new development in Detroit. But it's difficult to tell the residents of the city that this is more important than public safety or street lights."
Assuming all goes according to plan, construction on the arena is set to conclude in 2017.
The Red Wings' current home, Joe Louis Arena, opened in 1979. It is the fourth oldest arena in the NHL.