Detroit’s financial crisis hasn’t derailed the city’s plans to spend more than $400 million in Michigan taxpayer funds on a new hockey arena for the Red Wings.
Advocates of the arena say it’s the kind of economic development needed to attract both people and private investment dollars into downtown Detroit. It’s an argument that has convinced Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Kevyn Orr, the emergency manager he appointed to oversee the city’s finances, to stick with the plan. Orr said Detroit’s bankruptcy filing won’t halt the arena plans.
“I know there’s a lot of emotional concern about should we be spending the money,” said Orr. “But frankly that’s part of the economic development. We need jobs. If it is as productive as it’s supposed to be, that’s going to be a boon to the city.”
But critics say the project won’t have enough economic impact to justify the cost, and that it’s the wrong spending priority for a city facing dire economic conditions.
Detroit city services are already stretched extremely thin. On average, police take about an hour to respond to calls for help, and 40% of street lights are shut off to save money.
“If you want people to live in the city, and not just visit to go to games, you have to invest in schools, in having the police to respond to calls,” said Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic leader in the state senate. “There are so many investments that should trump a sports stadium.”
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