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02-03-2013, 11:30 PM
Nightmare on Helm St
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Crain's Detroit: Ilitches could break ground on new arena in 2013


Construction is expected begin no later than autumn on a new downtown arena for the Detroit Red Wings, according to a sports economist who has done work for the team's owners and is familiar with their plans.

"I would hope that they would be able to get it in the ground by the fall," said Mark Rosentraub, a professor of sports management at the University of Michigan. "A lot of that depends on the infrastructure."

He's worked for the Ilitch family, which owns the Red Wings, as a consultant to create economic impact, jobs and tax estimates and models for the $650 million arena district project, he said. Rosentraub cautioned that he's had no contact with the Ilitches since early December, so he doesn't know if plans have changed.

Sandra van Meek, a spokeswoman for Ilitch-owned Olympia Development Co. that's overseeing the project, declined to comment. Driving the project's timeline and cost will be infrastructure needs, Rosentraub said.

"Most of the infrastructure is already there. You don't need new access to the freeways or widening the street," he said.

Until site testing is done, the real project cost won't be known.

"They'll be putting up a very heavy building," Rosentraub said, noting that arenas tend to have more runoff from rain and melted snow than office or residential buildings, which makes drainage infrastructure a key priority. "All of that is very dependent on the environmental engineering. You don't get the final price until you get into it," he said.

Rosentraub said the "best case" construction timeline is 20-22 months. That schedule would mean the Wings would play at Joe Louis Arena for two or three more seasons.

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