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A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bankrupt Detroit doesn't need a new hockey arena

I don’t even balance a checkbook.
My wife does it all.
I don’t use a credit card.
Buy something online? Right, and while I am at it, would you like me to split an atom or possibly get to the bottom of E equals MC squared?
So my views on financial matters are tainted by a decided lack of knowledge.
But I do have a sliver of common sense, and that makes me question whether a new arena for the Red Wings will or should be built.
Detroit is a bankrupt city. It has not and cannot pay its bills. So how, in a city where creditors might be getting 10 cents on their dollar, and retired folks with pensions might be receiving the same kind of return, can a new hockey arena be justified?
Just last month, plans for an 18,000-seat arena were unveiled by the Red Wings’ owners and local economic development officials. The total cost of the new building would be $650 million, with $367 million coming from private investment and the rest public funds.
Believe me, I am all for a new hockey arena. While I have not seen the blueprints, I like the idea of not hiking up the side of Mount Everest just to get into the place and reducing the wait time in the line for the bathroom for women to, say, 45 minutes.
But how do you justify spending any public money on spit shined Zambonis and opulent luxury suites when huge chunks of the city itself are up on blocks?
Detroit is in serious trouble. Basic services are lacking. Nobody bothers to turn on the street lights and response time for police is measured by the calendar and not the clock. Public transportation is a joke and nobody is laughing. Unemployment is the norm and optimism in the neighborhoods is not.
Our youngest son lives on Detroit’s east side. While it is hardly the worst neighborhood in the city, there certainly haven’t been any home tours there recently.
The streets are full of pot holes. The sidewalks are cracked and unfortunately, many of the houses are unkempt. There aren’t any white picket fences to be seen. Plenty of bars on windows and front doors, though.
A neighborhood park? Hardly, and about the closest to that concept comes when one of the guys who lives in the house with our son rolls a basketball hoop out to end of their driveway and about 50 kids show up in under five minutes.
That appeals to me since I am a sports fan. That is also why I like the idea of a shiny new hockey arena. I like the idea of staring at a gargantuan scoreboard whose resolution would be so clear you could take out a protractor to measure the angle of Mike Babcock’s nose. I’d like eating something other than popcorn that tastes like it came straight out of a packing crate or chicken strips that no self-respecting hen would share DNA with. I’d prefer to park in a safe, secure lot and not some abandoned field that looks like Jimmy Hoffa might be buried two feet under the steel-belted radials of our Taurus.
But do you know what I’d like even more? Some peace of mind. I would like to have the streetlights go on outside of our son’s house. I’d like to have a police department that is fully staffed, one that would respond if he hears someone breaking into his house or the neighbor’s car or both.
I’d like that for everyone who resides in Detroit.
I love sports. But I love our son more. Build it and they will come. That is probably true. But once the game is over, us hockey fans will go back to the suburbs.
Detroiters will remain in the heart of darkness. Would someone please turn on the streetlights?


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