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Ilitches release details on plans for developments centred on new Detroit Red Wings arena

DETROIT - The Ilitch family on Sunday unveiled more details of its plans for an entertainment and residential complex centred on a new Detroit Red Wings hockey arena.

"It's always been my dream to see a vibrant and energized downtown Detroit," Mike Ilitch, chairman of Ilitch Holdings Inc., said in a statement. "I want people to look at Detroit's new sports and entertainment district and see what I see: the potential for something very special. I couldn't be more excited and proud to bring this vision to life."

The Ilitch organization said the new sports and entertainment district on the northern edge of the city's downtown "will encompass dozens of blocks along and near Woodward Avenue."

"Development in the district will be integrated with existing sports and entertainment venues in or adjacent to the space, including the Fox Theatre, Comerica Park, MotorCity Casino Hotel, Ford Field, the Detroit Opera House, the Fillmore Detroit and more," it said in a statement.

The Ilitches own the National League's Detroit Tigers, who play at Comerica Park, as well as the Fox Theatre. Ford Field is home of the NFL's Detroit Lions.

The Detroit City Council in February approved transferring vacant city-owned parcels for the new, 18,000-seat hockey arena and a 45-block entertainment complex. The overall project has been priced at $650 million.

The Red Wings now play at the riverfront Joe Louis Arena, which opened in 1979.

Christopher Ilitch, Mike Ilitch's son and president of Ilitch Holdings, said the family has decided to speed up its investments in the project. That, he said, will "stabilize and develop dozens of underutilized blocks, create more jobs more quickly and allow the city to spend public funds on other priorities."

In particular, the Ilitches said that they were speeding up private investment of "at least $200 million for new, mixed-use development to now occur concurrently with arena construction and transform dozens of blighted blocks into five new neighbourhoods."

Construction is scheduled to start in fall 2014, with the mixed-use part of the project getting underway in the first year. The new Detroit Red Wings area is scheduled to open in summer 2017, the Ilitches said.

Mayor Mike Duggan, whose city is going through bankruptcy proceedings under an emergency financial manager, said a project "of this magnitude and geographic reach will extend our progress, creating much-needed jobs for Detroiters, strengthening our public infrastructure both downtown and in the neighbourhoods, and attracting new, permanent residents to our city."

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