Detroit Red Wings: Day 80 of the NHL Lockout Brings Major News

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By Rhys Richards (@RREsq)

On Tuesday, the Ilitch organization announced that it is taking the next step forward in developing a new events center complete with residential, retail, and office space as well as Mike and Marian Ilitch’s longtime dream: a new arena for his Detroit Red Wings.

For Detroit fans worried about the Red Wings leaving for one of the Detroit-area suburbs like the Pistons did, Ilitch said, “It’s always been my dream to once again see a vibrant downtown Detroit. From the time we bought the Fox Theatre, I could envision a downtown where the streets were bustling and people were energized.”

Ilitch added, “It’s been a slow process at times, but we’re getting there now and a lot of great people are coming together to make it happen. It’s going to happen and I want to keep us moving toward that vision.”

Several months ago, the Ilitch organization reportedly hired an architect to begin designing Ilitch’s dream arena. This step includes another substantial investment to the project from the Ilitch companies, a group that has already invested $1.9 billion in downtown Detroit.

While Detroit was winning more than a few games in Columbus over the past several seasons, the Ilitch family was apparently taking notes. The group is dedicated to an arena and surrounding residential and business district not unlike that in Columbus. On Tuesday, University of Michigan Professor Mark S. Rosentraub also cited Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and San Diego as cities with similar arena districts.

For Detroit, a city that has made some progress but is certainly still feeling the effects of the economic downturn, this project is another godsend. The events center alone is expected to bring 5,500 jobs, while the entire district would create 8,300 jobs. The estimated economic impact is $1.8 billion.

The Ilitch companies are no stranger to grandiose projects. Olympia Development of Michigan, the real estate end of the Ilitch companies, was instrumental in the development of the beloved Hockeytown Café and Comerica Park.

Other Ilitch companies include Little Caesars Pizza, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, the Champion Foods, Ilitch Holdings and Uptown Entertainment, the Detroit Tigers, and MotorCity Casino Hotel. In short, the Ilitches bring thousands of jobs to Michigan and remain ever dedicated to the development of downtown Detroit.

Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press speculates that the Detroit Pistons would be a key addition to the new arena. Pistons owner Tom Gores has repeatedly softened his stance on a return to the downtown Detroit area. Sharp points out that the economic downturn has left a higher concentration of corporate resources downtown. With the ever diligent Ilitch’s push for a new arena, Sharp suggests that Gores could ultimately be a major winner as this project develops even if he and the Pistons are in the background.

Detroit has been pushing the Obama Administration for federal monies to fund a 3.3-mile light rail system down Woodward. More professional sporting events and other opportunities to increase downtown customer traffic would certainly help the city’s case.

Tuesday proved to be a very good day for Detroit Red Wings fans. While the announcement of the arena development was exciting long term news for the downtown area, Detroit Red Wings fans could also find some solace in the news from New York.

In New York, a group of players and owners met to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. The two sides met in two sessions, the latter of which went deep into the night.  NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA chief Donald Fehr did not attend the meetings.  NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr were present for some of the negotiations.  Afterwards, the sides were cautiously optimistic that an agreement could be reached to end the lockout.

The two sides were scheduled to meet Wednesday morning, but the NHLPA wanted more time to perform due diligence before making a new offer. The two sides are expected to meet after Wednesday’s Board of Governors meeting.

For Red Wings fans, a new collective bargaining agreement would be the perfect exclamation point on the heels of yesterday’s announcement. After all, a new arena is always exciting, but Detroiters would like to know that their beloved Red Wings will be playing hockey in the foreseeable future.           

Information obtained from      

Share your thoughts about the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings, and hockey in general with Rhys at Twitter: @RREsq.  He can be reached via email at  Join the many fans of The Hockey Guys on Facebook and Twitter @TheHockeyGuys

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