Babcock wants new arena for Red Wings

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The Red Wings may have won 23 straight games at home, but they’d still love a new home.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock went on the radio today and emphasized the need for state government to help in the effort to replace aging Joe Louis Arena.

“If we want the city to come back, we got to revitalize downtown,” Babcock said, as per the Detroit News. “And a big part of that’s going to be the new arena, and the mall and the stuff going around it. And that’s very important. That’s why we need the state to jump onside. The sooner the better, if we’re going to revitalize Michigan. It’s got to start right here in Detroit.”

The newspaper reports that a number of properties have been snapped up in the “blighted” downtown area in the vicinity of Comerica Park and Ford Field. This has led to speculation that a major development, which would include a new arena, could be in the works.

Wings owner Mike Ilitch, billionaire founder of a pizza, sports and entertainment empire known as Ilitch Holdings, has said for more than five years that he wants to build an arena downtown for the hockey team. He has indicated that financing is one of the snags in constructing such a facility.

Ilitch received $115 million from the city of Detroit, Wayne County and corporate investors and paid the remaining $185 million when he built Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, in the 1990s. The state financed infrastructure improvements. Economic experts and a Michigan pollster have said Ilitch won’t get as much public funding for a new hockey arena.

It hasn’t been the easiest time in the United States to be asking state governments for money to build stadiums, but the dramatic turnaround of the auto industry has actually resulted in a budget surplus for Michigan. That said turnaround and surplus was predicated on a massive government bailout might convince taxpayers that contributing to the revitalization of downtown is a worthwhile public investment.