Groundbreaking for new Red Wings arena, entertainment district Thursday

$650 million project financed by taxpayers as well as Ilitches

DETROIT – The financing is set, the design is taking shape and the groundbreaking on the Red Wings stadium district happens Thursday.

It's a $650 million project financed by the taxpayers as well as the Ilitches.

What's beyond the fence will actually be a synthetic ice rink you can skate on starting Saturday and running through Oct. 5.

Thursday marks the official groundbreaking for that long-rumored and dreamed-about Red Wings arena, which is now a 45-block district that will be a neighborhood with residential, retail and offices in addition to the big red bowl.

The designers are so committed to the neighborhood concept they don't want you to even see the arena from the periphery of the area.

"Anything is better than an empty lot, but all the new development with the new housing, the stores, the shopping," said Hope Colpaert, of Sterling Heights.

This massive undertaking comes with an equally massive price tag of $650 million. A little under $300 million will come from public monies. The rest is private.

What will be built isn't just a 20,000-seat arena, but townhouses, lofts, class A office space, bars, restaurants, stores and the brand new infrastructure to support it.

"I think what the Ilitch organization is doing is outstanding," said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. "It's going to be a lot of jobs for Detroiters, investment in our community and I love the fact that we're building a neighborhood and not just building a hockey rink."

Fans out and about for the Tigers win are thrilled, too.

"The Joe has got to go. That's all there is to it," said one fan.

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