Detroit Red Wing owner Mike Ilitch has proposed building a new arena. While many of the details still need to be worked out, this is the first step in what could be a four to six year process in opening a new arena.
Ilitch met with the Michigan Senate Government Operations Committee where the proposal received the first phase of approval needed. The plan is to build a multi-purpose arena that would also include shopping, residences and office space.
It is time for a new arena. While the Joe Louis Arena has been a good home, it is time to move on. The city needs to expand Cobo Arena, and the space that the Joe occupies is perfect for it. Also, while the Joe is still useful, it is very much outdated in the world of sports. A new arena would help the team continue to be profitable for decades to come.
By building a new arena, the team can help anchor another section of the city and hopefully grow businesses around it. There have also been rumblings about the Detroit Pistons returning to the city. The Pistons play at The Palace of Auburn Hill which is highly profitable; however, their owner Tom Gores is open to the idea of moving. A new arena could play home to both teams and host concerts and other events as well.
The big wonder is where such an arena would be built. Ilitch owns plenty of land around the city, and while many have guessed at locations, there are really only two options. The first is behind the Fox Theater, and the other spot is near Motor City Casino. The Ilitch family owns both the Fox and the casino, which makes both locations ideal for them.
While both locations are close to each other, the Fox location would be closer to Ford Field and Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Lions and Tigers, respectively. While there should not be too many games that overlap, having three stadiums that close to each other might be lead to too much overcrowding. The shared parking lots would create issues. Also, the prevailing idea seems to be that of expanding to a new area to help it thrive. Building on top on an existing area would not accomplish that.
The property near Motor City Casino seems more logical. The only roadblock would be the NHL. Baseball had concerns with Ilitch and his family's casino ownership, and while Mike Ilitch does not directly own the casino, his wife Marian does. As long as the NHL does not have any issues with an arena being so close to a casino, then all should be good.
In an email statement sent out by the team, hints about the casino area are apparent:
While the exact location of the district has not been determined, it will be strategically located to serve some of the most underutilized areas in Detroit's downtown core, strengthening the link between Detroit's existing assets through a continuous, walkable environment connecting one district to the next and serving to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.
The “walkable environment” and “underutilized areas” are the keys. The Fox area is already within the area of the other two arenas so while it is walkable, it is not underutilized. The casino area, however, puts a little over one mile between Comerica Park and a new arena. This opens up a corridor where new businesses could develop between the two areas, which has the potential to make it very walker friendly.
There is also not much development past the casino. Not only will the arena open the corridor to Comerica, it would also extend development past it while becoming a hub for growth in that section of town.
In the end, both locations would be suitable for a new arena. While the casino area makes a little more sense in helping to expand growth throughout the city, the Fox location would work as well. Hopefully this project continues to gain steam and more definite plans can be announced soon.
PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist covering the Detroit Red Wings as well as many other sports.
You can follow him on Twitter.
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