Red Wings organization: Put some of your income back into Detroi - KMSP-TV

Red Wings organization: Put some of your income back into Detroit

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(WJBK) -

Opinion by Mike Renda
General manager, WJBK FOX 2

On the same day the city of Detroit greeted the start of a new baseball season downtown, city council gave the Mike Ilitch organization an additional reason to celebrate.
In a 5-4 vote, council cleared the way for a new Red Wings hockey arena near the ball park under terms hugely favorable for the ownership of the Red Wings and Tigers.
Council members Saunteel Jenkins, James Tate, Andre Spivey, Gabe Leland and George Cushingberry agreed to give the team ownership a pass on as much as 50 million dollars that it owed the city for disputed cable television revenues. The vote also approved just 1 million dollars per year in lease payments for Joe Louis Arena for the next five years, down from 7 million dollars a year under the past deal.
It is mindboggling to me that this council could pass up millions of dollars in much-needed revenues. Our bankrupt city is struggling for its very existence, so why would council be willing to forgive substantial debts and give huge tax breaks? Is this all about downtown development? What about our struggling neighborhoods?
We also know that the plan for the new arena calls for the Red Wings to pick up 42 percent of the new arena's cost with the rest financed by the public. While the city will not spend any money on the arena itself it will contribute mightily by giving away land and receiving no ongoing revenues from the Wings.
It's not surprising that many believe the city is getting the short end of the stick in this deal negotiated by the Detroit Development Authority. I would agree. So now what can be done?
I call for the Red Wings organization to share some of their income, including using naming rights revenues to help fight city blight or aid in reconstruction efforts. There is a precedent - in 2002, Ford Field's naming rights fees went toward the construction of the new football stadium to offset public costs.
Cities like Orlando and Phoenix have recently constructed deals with their teams that involved those cities getting some revenues on ticket surcharges and arena naming rights. Team owners in general, and especially here in Detroit, just cannot continue to expect to use public money to build these sports venues and then keep all the cash.

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